Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Pinata

As most Americans surely did, we celebrated a Mexican holiday this past Saturday. No one knows what the holiday actually signifies, but we all love Cinco de Mayo. We spent a fun evening at a friend’s house, eating Mexican food, drinking Mexican beer, and watching the kids play in the pool. The pool was American. Oh, well.

My wife was in charge of the Mexican party game, namely, the piñata. Between the five families at the party, we had twelve kids raring to smack the two-foot long paper mache motorcycle in hopes of scoring some free candy.

I say paper mache, but actually it was a store-bought piñata, so it was really a cardboard motorcycle with shredded streamer material glued to the outside. We have neither the patience, the time, nor the artistic talent to make our own piñatas at my house. We also have no piñata party skills, as it turns out.

My wife filled the piñata with candy prior to the party. That was about the only piñata-related step we got right in the whole process. Two other things you need for a piñata are a string or rope to hang it from, and a bat to hit it with. We forgot both of those. The house we were at did not contain any string, so we ended up using a waterski rope from their boat, complete with the rainbow pattern nylon weave and the foam rubber handle. All things considered, it was fairly festive looking, so we were off to an OK start. As far as the bat goes, we couldn’t come up with one of those either, so we used a long, stout, fairly straight stick from the woodpile. That probably worked just fine for the inventor of the first piñata, so it would be fine for us.

We tied the waterski rope through the zip-tie loop on the top of the piñata, threw the rope over the basketball hoop in the backyard sport court, and we were ready to go. The first kid in line picked up the authentic piñata stick and hit the cardboard motorcycle fairly gently, which immediately broke the zip-tie, sending the candy-filled Trojan horse to the ground. All twelve kids rushed forward to pounce on it.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa! You have to wait until the candy comes out,” said my wife.

We pulled the piñata out from under the pile of children and threaded the waterski rope through the cardboard opening that the zip tie loop had previously been in. We strung it back up on the basketball hoop and let the first kid have another crack at it.

He made very slight contact again and ripped the rope right out of the top of the piñata. It hit the ground again, and this time some candy spilled out with it. When we retrieved it from under the pile of screaming, candy-crazy children again, we no longer had any attachment point for our rope. We could have prevented two injuries and a lot of near misses and adult stress and strife if we had just stopped right there and poured out the rest of the candy onto the ground. Unfortunately, we were determined to keep going.

Not having any place to tie off the rope, we simply hog-tied the entire piñata with the rope, wrapping it around and around the body of the cardboard motorcycle until we were sure it would not come loose and hit the ground again.

The second kid in line hit it so hard, he put a hole right through the middle of it and sent half the candy spraying across the ground. He threw the stick down and dove for the candy, along with the other eleven miniature candy fiends.

Hmm… This doesn’t seem right. How come he got such a good piece of it? Wait a minute… We’re supposed to be working the rope, moving it up and down to make it harder to hit! We forgot that part.

The third kid got up to the plate and swung for the fences, expecting an outcome similar to the previous batter. At the last second, but for the first time that night, I yanked the rope and pulled the piñata up and out of the way of his monster swing. He was so prepared to hit the candy-filled target squarely, that upon missing it unexpectedly, his momentum spun him around 720 degrees, and he landed face-first on the concrete. He came up crying, holding tight to an injured thumb that had taken the brunt of his spinning fall.

Whoops. Our first piñata injury. I don’t think that’s supposed to happen. Come to think of it, why did that happen? Why are they swinging like they’re up to bat trying to hit a home run? Wait a minute… I think we’re supposed to spin them around first to get them dizzy and off balance so they can’t get so set before the swing…

We spun kid number four, and he looked a little dizzy, but he still teed off on the thing. He knocked the front wheel of the motorcycle off at such a high velocity that one of the dads took a Jolly Rancher in the face hard enough to put him down, tragically spilling much of his Corona.

Wait a minute... I think we’re also supposed to blindfold them…

Kid number five stepped up to the piñata with a blindfold on, and after being properly spun around to disorient her, she was our first contestant of the night that reminded us all of a proper piñata at-bat. She had that awkward, drunken sword wielding swing of a slightly disoriented blind person, but she still managed to make pretty decent contact with the moving target.

Kid number six took a wild swing and made solid contact sending more candy flying. As the horde of children rushed toward him, he proceeded to take another cut at it, narrowly avoiding decapitating two of the kids. He was in the middle of a third swipe as my wife, yelling “NOOOOOOO” like a slow motion action film star, came diving across the group of children, trying to save them from certain piñata-stick death. She came within mere inches of taking the fast moving stick in the teeth as she tried to pull the kids back away from the piñata-crazed seven-year-old’s swing radius.  

After she got done chastising our oldest son for almost killing half the kids at the party, and his own mother, she declared in a rather loud and frantic voice the new rule of, “Everyone back ten feet and nobody moves!!!”

By the time kids seven through nine were done, the piñata had been hit so many times, I wasn’t sure there was any candy left. There really wasn’t much piñata left. It looked like it had spent all day on an artillery range. The only thing keeping it from falling to the ground in eight small pieces was the fact that it was completely enveloped in a spider web of waterski rope.

Why is this thing taking such a beating? This still doesn’t seem right… These kids are like piñata savants. No one is missing…

Kid number ten walked unsteadily toward the plate. He was obviously dizzy, but he was squaring up nicely on his target. When I yanked the rope and pulled the piñata straight up in the air, his head snapped up to follow its movement…

They can see through the blindfold!

The stretchy shirt we had been using as a blindfold, when finally tested by my wife, was found to be less than blinding. In fact, she said she could see really well through it.

Whoops. Either all the kids were in cahoots and keeping it quiet, or we really didn’t do a good enough job of explaining what a blindfold was and what it was supposed to accomplish.

Either way, from a how-that-whole-thing-was-supposed-to-work standpoint, it is safe to say that we universally failed at piñata.

Our failures only seemed to matter to us, however. The great thing about kids is they never knew the difference. As far as they were concerned, the piñata was a great success. They all got a bunch of candy, and they all got to hit something with a stick. Two things kids love.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2012 Marc Schmatjen

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  1. Rookie mistakes! We do a pinata every Christmas Eve and now that the "kids" are almost 30... we've gotten VERY creative in making it impossible to hit the hanging Santa! Mostly, though, we just try to get to Christmas morning without a major head injury! The blindfolds get bigger and the bats get softer every year -- we're down to nerf and whiffle only! You'll discover a "real" pinata stick is far too weapon-like as the kids get older! Ah... pinatas, such great memories!! Gail :)

  2. If you could send us an instructional video, that would be great!