I got out of the car and crossed the front yard. Lying the yard was a strange object, like a big torn paper doll with lots of black paper curly hair, with bits of string and paper scattered around it. I looked at it curiously, then went up to the house, where the princess was invited to a birthday party.
“We had a pinata! The princess didn’t know what a pinata was!”
I smiled politely. “Actually, I don’t know what a pinata is either.”
“It’s such fun! We had made a big doll out of paper-mache, and filled it up with candies. Then we tied it up in the yard, and all took turn hitting it with sticks until it burst and tore and the candy fell out. It’s a Mexican game!”
I felt amazed. My first reaction was to scream “What a horrible, sick game!”. But that would not have been polite. So I continued smiling, took my daughter by the hand, and went back to the car, trying to not look at the poor mutilated paper doll lying in the yard, with her belly torn open and the sweets spilling out.
I don’t know- perhaps it is because when I was a child, my dolls were very real to me, and I felt they were just as alive, if not more so, than the humans around me. Perhaps it was the traumatic memory of my sister bursting into tears and sobbing at the sight of some relatives idly punching up an old doll. Perhaps it was simply the mental image of a gang of little girls all dressed in brightly coloured party clothes, their hair decorated and braided and pretty, whacking at a doll with a stick and screaming with joy. In any case, I felt it was a horrible horrible game, but I couldn’t resist questioning the princess about it later on.
-So did you beat up the doll as well?
-Yes! we all did! It wasn`t fair- I only had two turns!
-Why? How many turns did the others have?
-Some people whacked it three times, and that stupid Mary Jane whacked it four times!
-Did you enjoy whacking it? Did you want to hit it more?
The princess is clever. She sensed my tone was too carefully neutral and contrived. She answered my question with another question: “If you had been there, wouldn’t you have hit it? Would you have enjoyed it?”
I have enough experience as a mother to know it is futile to scream: `No! I would not! And I don’t want you playing that stupid horrible sick game ever ever again!` That would simply make pinata the most attractive and wonderful game in the world. I changed the subject. And tried to put the image of the torn paper doll with the black curly hair out of my mind.