Gorilla Love: When April Fools’ Day Goes Right-ish

“If I get married, I want to be very married.” — Audrey Hepburn

My parents have been dating for decades.

Audrey may’ve stolen that quote from my mom.

I was seven when my parents celebrated 15 years of marriage. If we’d already been blessed with my youngest sister Cora, the ever-wise now psychologist, we might have celebrated the milestone somewhat differently. (Cora is skilled at spotting fires before they’ve been set.)

My three siblings and I had decided that year 15, being a huge, fancy-sounding number, was worthy of an equally huge and fancy party. Pooling together any allowance we hadn’t yet spent and coins from between couch cushions, we came up with enough money to fund what we deemed the perfect gift. I mean, who wouldn’t want a surprise party, embellished with a singing, hula-dancing gorilla? Two examples spring immediately to mind: my humble, attention-not-preferred parents.

While some folks averse to such surprises might flee at the sight of Luau Layla and her illustrious leis, or shun the party-throwers thereafter, my parents smiled, blushed and indulged—anything for their kidlets. They are still the same darn way. Luckily, they also share a great sense of humor.

When my dad celebrated his 60th birthday two years ago, my brother Aaron and I decided to fly in and, with our Minnesota-residing siblings, recreate that beloved event—only this time, with Aaron and I as the gorillas. (Some lessons are learned, apparently; others, ignored.) And play, we did. From keeping the two of us hidden at our sisters’ places to scoping out Craig’s List and costume shops for gorilla suits after the “suits” I ordered from Amazon turned out to be gorilla torsos—over-the-shoulder fur featuring plump, rubber nipples—the five of us made like the children we used to be, and probably remain, to an extent. Though we didn’t adorn Dad with flowers or force him and Mom to wiggle their hips before loved ones as Ms. Layla had, the blushing, appreciation and absence of “How could you?!?” were eerily similar.

Oh, how we’ve matured!

I’ve learned a great deal from my parents about love, respect, patience and perseverance. They’ve taught me to follow my heart, to treat others with kindness, to value togetherness over “things,” to celebrate music and concoct a mean batch of Indian curry. And though they’ve had their share of bumps along the way, as most of us have, they’ve never let go of each other or the bond that they share. As an adult, I’ve watched it grow and tighten, along with their individuality; two full-halves making a more wondrous whole. My mother is quick to call my dad her soulmate (and “hot lips,” but I won’t go there today), and my dad continues to romance her with flowers, cards and thoughtfully-planned dates. And even when particular offspring have made life chaotic challenging interesting, they’ve remained strong, as parents and a pair. Not a day has passed that any one of us kids hasn’t known that we are deeply loved.

Looking back on our gorilla fests, the original and the sequel, it’s clear to me that the ability to step out of the presumable comfort zone, laugh at life’s surprises and accept gifts, even when we feel slightly misunderstood, are pretty key to a lasting, happy marriage. Or perhaps it’s getting married in a snowstorm on April Fools’ Day, after getting locked out of the church. (Another true story. I imagine they were laughing then, too.)

For all of my curiosities about true love and marriage, I’ve no doubt that my parents have done it right.

Happy 41st anniversary, Mom and Dad! We promise to stick to jeans and t-shirts this year. 🙂

For my mom’s thoughts on marriage, check out my interview with her here.

What April Fools’ Day sticks out in  your mind? Any anniversary hilarity to share? Do you regress as much as I do on the home front? 

Leave a comment


  1. What a lovely post, August, how proud your parents must be. Thanks for such a memorable April Fool’s Day post.

  2. Yee ha! I mean ooooooaaaa (goriila chest thumps). Lucky to have such great parents (you are the spitting image of your Mom. Bet no one has ever told you before). Happy birthday to your hot lips. I mean your Dad.

  3. August, this is a post every parent would be proud to receive from their children. Thanks for sharing it with us! When a wife still calls her husband “hot lips” after 41 years, that’s a true indication of a successful marriage! Love it!

  4. Catherine Johnson

     /  April 1, 2013

    Awh what a lovely tribute to your family, August. I love that wedding day story at the end too. With me living abroad I often reminisce about living with mum and dad again when dad used to always sit to my right and I’d punch his arm every time he said something silly. I miss those days.

  5. Happy Anniversary to your parents and April Fools’ Day to you! I will never look at ape costumes the same way again!

    • Ha. Thanks, Susie!

      • And now I dreamed about them last night. No lie… Hahaha!

      • What??? LOL Totally cracks me up. I hope the gorillas were the friendly variety. 🙂

      • No one was harmed in my dream sequence, but it was hilarious. All I can remember is my mom was asking for help in moving “lions” from one semi trailer to another. I know so weird. She opened up the door before we could help her and they escaped. As I ran towards them I scratched one behind the ear and they changed into gorillas, but really cute little gorillas. Hahaha!

  6. Julie Catherine

     /  April 1, 2013

    Awww, this is so sweet, and such a loving tribute to your wonderful parents – wishing them a very Happy Anniversary, and Happy April Fools’ Day to you also! Awesome post! 🙂

  7. I think we all regress when we return to the nest.

  8. Happy Anniversary, August’s parents! It’s nice to read about people who got the whole marriage thing right. 🙂

  9. How marvelous! I am in awe of couples who pass such milestones. I’m at 20 years with my hubby, and your parents are more than double that! I plan to get there, but I have a ways to go. Maybe I should introduce gorilla suits into our plan. Loved the tribute post.

  10. Aww! I bet your parents are super proud of you, August! I know I would be honored to call you my daughter. And I would just D.I.E. laughing if you showed up in that gorilla suit. I love reading about all the fun you and your family share. What a cool house that was growing up. I’m so glad it continues to support and nurture you, my friend.

    Happy Anniversary August’s mom and dad! You two totally rock!!

  11. lynnkelleyauthor

     /  April 1, 2013

    Happy Anniversary to your folks, August. You and your siblings are a hoot! Love the idea of singing, hula-dancing gorillas! How fun! My folks celebrated their 60th anniversary last July. They don’t like big parties or lots of attention either, but they invited all five kids, their spouses, grandkids and spouses, and great-grandkids, so it was a good-sized celebration after all. We have to celebrate these important milestones, don’t we? Great times and memories!

  12. Oh dear. I think perhaps it would be best if you all stayed away from anything gorilla in the future. Not that you aren’t a cute pair of gorillas mind you, but still.

    Happy anniversary to your folks. They sound like awesome people!

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  13. Raani York

     /  April 1, 2013

    Happy Anniversary to your parents, August!! Nowadays it’s not easy to celebrate an Anniversary like this!! I’m happy for them!!!
    If my Dad hadn’t passed away 15 years ago my parents would celebrate their 47 Anniversary this year.
    It’s amazing!!
    And I love the picture… you Guys really look like a pair of enormously happy …uhm… gorillas? LOL

  14. Happy 41 to your parents August! What a special pair! And a great example of what marriage can be. Love the gorilla suit. How fun was that? 🙂

  15. “two full-halves making a more wondrous whole” Love that, August!

  16. I absolutely love the posts where you feature your parents August, what an awesome couple! But they’re also very lucky to have kids like you and your siblings 🙂

  17. Kourtney Heintz

     /  April 2, 2013

    Aw happy anniversary to your parents! I love you and your bro doing the monkey suit again. 🙂

  18. Okay, you got me at “making curry” due to my post on the matter: http://kindredspirit23.wordpress.com/2012/09/17/too-many-cooks-that-sometimes-means-just-one/
    Those times are worth a fortune in memories. I hope your folks have those and more.

  19. Thank you for sharing a wonderful story.


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