My youngest, Estella, turned five on Tuesday. A firm believer in keeping birthdays simple (at least in theory), my plan was to invite a few friends to the park, do the piñata thing, let them run off the candy buzz and call it a cumpleaños.
Despite my purest intentions though (and consistent with my usual actions as opposed to my theories) I managed to complicate matters for myself as if it were my job. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I’ve pulled off a simple birthday yet. And why? Because apparently even more than ‘simple’ I value ‘homemade’.
In all fairness, Hunter called it. “Why the hell do you want to make piñatas when there are at least a dozen professional piñata makers in our neighborhood alone?”
It’s not like I hadn’t thought it through. I had four good reasons — make that five.
- I’ve never made piñatas with my kids.
- Estella is my last and I’m secretly trying to cram in all the PITA projects I’ve been putting off all these years.
- All the piñatas I’ve seen here are sorry excuses for popular U.S. TV characters (with elongated, yellow faces and stickers for eyes) and I’ll be darned if I’m going spend our hard-earned pesos on a life-size, jaundiced Dora la Exploradora.
- I’m convinced that the candy sold at piñata stores might actually kill you if your immune system were already slightly compromised by say, a head cold or old age or a UTI. Chili-covered gummy invertebrates, plastic toilets with aquamarine Clorox sugar bowls, and gooey tongue paint whose most-likely-unregulated food dye stains your mouth radiation-green for at least 48 hours? I’ve laxed my standards a whole lot since my first years of parenting, but not quite that far.
- The piñatas in this part of Mexico are made with clay pots inside of them, the kids lined up to whack them are no amateurs and we’ve witnessed more than one bloodied body be peeled from the bottom of a pinata pile-up amidst candy, sponge bob parts and ceramic shards. Not even kidding.
So, we made piñatas. For four days. It may have been the single messiest project in the Berry family to-date (and believe you me, we’re no strangers to mess-making).
Do I think piñatas can be made without destroying the house, ruining the mixing bowls and compromising the sewage lines? Probably – though such a tidy outcome would have required my total engagement, and why would I spend four days managing a paper mache project when I have an industrious, resourceful and good-natured 11-year-old who happily volunteered for the position? I’ve earned the luxury of minimal engagement, dad gummet. You’d better believe I’m willing to pay the price of two hours of clean up for four days of occupied children.
It is with a sigh of relief, dry and prune-like hands (I did help, in the end) and many thanks to Taos that I can now check piñata-making off the list of family memory makers and try again next year for that ever-elusive goal of simplicity.