Monday, September 25, 2006

Batter Up!

I will never quite understand what makes a pinata the focal point of a party.

Oh sure, there's candy and little toys inside this mysterious box. That could be part of it. It could be that it is one of the only times we condone, nay, encourage violence on a rather grand scale. What could be more thrilling than attemtpting to whack some crazy dancing cardboard figure, usually in the shape of a beloved character, on a rope with a bat?

No matter that I caved to mommy peer pressure this year and got a bouncer, or that the kids made their own custom pizzas, or that I had this totally awesome craft. Oh no, it was the Lightining on a string that got the loudest cheers.

The evolution of the pinata has been a long and interesting one. Growing up as one of only five white children from 1st to 8th grade in a class comprised of mostly Latinos has given me personal insight. Pinatas used to be big. Really big. Made out of papier mache, it wasn't necessarily that the inside cavity was so large, they just make those suckers so hard to break open that you could take two turns each and it still would not have broken completely. You would be lucky if you got the one of the donkey's legs to come partially off. There was a a sprinkling of candy that would come out of the now-dangling leg, and the bloodlust increased with the taste of what was to come. Made to resemble mostly farm animals, the type of commercialization we have now was unheard of back then. And it seems that I remembered the adults making it very difficult to make contact with the pinata, there wasn't this "every child must get at least three hits" stuff that goes on nowadays. It was a dog-eat-dog pinata world in the seventies.

Pinatas today are a shadow of their fomer selves. We seem to be in a kinder, gentler world of pinata openings. In fact, you would be hard pressed to even find one that is designed to be hit anymore, almost all of them now feature pull-strings. Where is the fun in that? There are some custom pinata makers, people who run the operation out of their garages, but law enforcement has been cracking down on them with copyright infingements. And so they haven't been doing as well, because what privileged preschooler in 2006 wants a pig pinata? None, I tell you. I just haven't gotten to the level yet that I am willing to buy black-market pinatas, so I was forced to buy the one at Party City.

Despite it's peaceful intent, we decided to be all violent and let the kids take a few swings at the pinata anyway. They loved it, they were begging for more chances. So from a 15 month old baby to an 89 year old kid, everyone got to take a shot. But the pinata was not designed to be broken by a whiffle ball bat, and remained impressively unscathed. Finally, we allowed the children pick strings to pull. On the second round, it came open, and out from the heavens (or at least in the eyes of a four year old) it rained some primo candy, toys, and stickers.

But the pinata purist in me wished for a brief, reflective moment that our society was a bit less politically correct.

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