It is April 1, 1994. I am 16 and have just passed my driving test. A part of me wonders if the staid testing guy, hair greased back and brown cardigan just the right pilliness to conjure my teenage judgment, is going to pull a fast one on me and joke that I’ve failed, but he doesn’t. It’s business as usual in downtown Yorktown Heights along Baldwin Road. Because I am 16, and my frontal lobe is still a mess of secretions and half-formed neural pathways, I am scheming a terrible April Fool's joke that will end up going awry.
I can see it all now clearly from the rearview window of my 44 years and the motherhood journey that, much like The Fool in the Tarot, only narrowly averts a short walk off a steep cliff over and over again. If I could tell myself to stop and think about the impact of this “joke” on my poor parents, who of course will find out and worry considerably until the matter is cleared up, I would have. But time then will not allow for forethought, consideration, empathy, or compassion.
I will tell my bestie Jen that I’ve gotten in a car accident. It will be funny because I’ve just gotten my license. When she gets to Meghan’s house, I’ll be here and jump out and say, “APRIL FOOLS!” and laugh laugh laugh at her startled face as shock and surprise steep into the ‘ol, “you really worried me there for a second” resignation of having gotten got.
What I don’t realize as I make the phone call to Jen, as she’s readying herself for a wild high school Saturday night, is that my parents are visiting with hers at the long table in her kitchen where they often linger over after-dinner Sambuca and dark coffee together. Epic fail.
My call is histrionic and brief. I am playing up the gag by conjuring Jen’s worrisome nature. It will be so funny when she walks in the door and I’m sitting there, just fine, drinking a Heineken. But time goes by, and she doesn’t arrive. I start to get worried. Did Jen get in a car accident?? My wheels are turning. I call her house again and Daphne, her mom, answers the phone.
Andie is that you?? Are you okay?? Jen said you were in an accident! Mom and Dad are just leaving to go check the hospitals, oh my god! Where are you???
And of course, this is before cell phones and immediate information at our fingertips; I’m sure my parents would have been those parents that put a tracker on their kid’s phone. But time has not yet graced us with immediacy, so every minute that goes by is an abyss of anxiousness. Daphne gets my mom on the phone right as she’s putting on her coat to leave and of course, I get an EARFUL of vitriolic Sicilian spite. I can feel shame and guilt chasing each other round and around my tight chest. It isn’t supposed to go like this. It’s supposed to be funny.
Jen makes it over to Meghan’s house and I am stewing in regret as the midnight hour approaches. I am the Fool, and when I eventually get home, the joke is on me.
Grounded. No car for a month.
I cry April showers until May, when the world is full of lilacs. My dad hands me the keys to mom’s caravan and, finally free, wouldn’t you know I promptly run into Meghan’s mailbox and dent the hood of the car.