The devil, the princess, the pirate, a ghost, a bloody vampire, a tiger, a hula girl, a gaggle of clowns, witches, the inevitable hobo and several store-bought, licensed characters du jour roamed the party room with abandon, squealing and growling at the top of their alter-ego voices. There were no hookers, sluts or gang members; the party-goers were only five years old. The girls did not yet know that Halloween was an excuse to dress “sexy”, nor had the boys discovered gang attire as a way to display their underwear.
Rubber swords sliced through the air, magic wands failed to turn boy-toads into handsome princes and the brooms swept little more than a trail of candy wrappers behind them. By now I was wishing that we had offered a prize for best mime costume, and best mime behavior.
The kids had already been through the haunted house part of the party. Blind folded, they had stuck their little candy-coated fingers in the cold spaghetti “worms” and squealed. The boys especially loved the grape “eyeballs” and screeched with pleasure as they threw them at the girls. They had pinned the tail on the wall donkey, but another, as yet unreachable donkey taunted them from above.
The time had come to introduce the miniature, screaming mob of kindergartners to the dangling donkey. Bent on destruction, and in a sugar-fueled frenzy, they descended on the helpless creature hanging limply from the ceiling fan. They took aim, some with bats, others brandished swords. One especially scary character swung a rubber ax. Even the most innocent, non-violent among them struck the creature with her magic wand. Their missing teeth, once cute – even charming – looked sinister in this setting beneath the treasure.
Frantic now, they swarmed beneath the creature, a throng on the verge of riot, chanting ever louder, “CAN-DY, CAN-DY, CAN-DY.” The creature was flying now to and ‘fro in the air, sailing and spinning against every assault to its fragile facade. Not a moment too soon, did its papier-mâché skin finally begin to to crack. A hush descended upon the huddle. Frankenstein and Dracula lifted their masks, their now revealed faces filled with anticipation. Two Ninja turtles, the hobo and a perky cheerleader hung back with one of the clowns. The devil struck the fatal blow. Whack! The pirate barked to the pack, “Now!” Cinderella squeezed her loot bag closer to her chest. Nothing happened. The piñata … was empty. No lollipops, candy corn or tootsie rolls fell from the barren donkey. There was no candy at all, not even paper stuffing. The birthday party girl began to cry. “Where’s the candy?” she wailed, her red devil cheeks now streaked with red-tainted tears and maternal betrayal.
“I thought it came with candy already in it,” I whispered to her, panic rising in my throat. “I didn’t know we had to fill it ourselves.” I pulled myself up and faced the mob. “ I thought piñatas already had candy in them. I’m so sorry,” I begged to the little monsters. They were befuddled. I was dumbfounded. Horrified, in fact (it was Halloween, after all). They looked at me as if I really were the witch I had dressed to portray.
In a flash I dropped the broom I had clumsily straddled for hours and rushed to the centerpiece, a plastic, grinning jack-o-lantern. I dipped in to its guts retrieving fistfuls of wax lips, chocolate eyeballs, spider rings and lollipops. I began hurling them at the mob, swiftly reloading and tossing again and again. The mob began to break up, scurrying for the once missing treasures, quickly forgetting that the donkey piñata had been handled by a total jackass, or was it a dumb ass? Their toothless grins became charming once more. The party girl wiped her tears and began to smile again beneath her horns. Twenty-one years later she now cries with laughter and smiles, but remains befuddled by the episode.
“MOM! I still can’t believe you didn’t know you had to fill the piñata! Seriously?”