I swore off piñatas after my sixth birthday. This is a tale of betrayal.
It was a sunny spring day in the Maryland suburbs. The twirling Tweety Bird held secrets and promises. It was the uniting force of the party. Our common enemy and collective victory. Friends from all avenues of my life gathered. Sunday school homies, the obligatory neighborhood friends, soccer teammates, even the kids from my homeschoolers bowling league.
After they celebrated me in song, and we feasted upon sugar, we finally took to the hunt. We took turns swinging at the giant bird. Vanquishing did not come easy. Paper feathers fluttered to the ground as we beat the piñata in rage, demanding our prize. Finally, an orange taloned foot split. Our energy surged, each wanting the chance to deliver the final blow.
One lucky knight did just that, and suddenly it was raining gold. Smarties, Now & Laters, Lollipops and Double Bubble gum were snatched from blades of grass. No one wasted time reveling in the victory, but went straight to devouring.
I was organizing my plunder when my comrades turned on me. I was admiring my treasure and savoring the gathered wholeness. When suddenly, a battle cry, “MORE CANDY.” They’d spotted my stash. They came running, they snatched and scavenged. I was in shock. Clearly this was my loot, had they not enough of their own? Did they not know I was the birthday girl? Ruler of party and celebrated individual that brought them here. I was left with nothing but a single strawberry sucker.
Mom came over to check on her tough girl, my shoulders hunched and eyes pinched. “They. Stole. My. Candy,” I said in short breathes of anger. “Off with their heads!” I declared to her. How could children be so cruel?
Mom, my wisest advisor, had a different solution. I was both grateful and mortified as she asked the children to each give me some of their candy. The thieves formed a line and ushered forward in solemn shame. I avoided eye contact as the traitors mumbled apologies and reluctantly dropped candy into my bag. We sent them home with a parting gift, one last token to prove my worthy right to rule this day. I sent them home with what I hoped was guilt.
Since then I’ve detested the bulging cardboard dream crushers. How awful an idea to have children battle each other for food? In years to come I sometimes participate in the initial ritual, blasting on the thing in resentful anger, increasingly frustrated as my impacts make no damage. Then I step back and watch as they scramble for scraps. Pity their need and foolish instincts. Sworn to never again indulge in the gold that makes monsters of men.