Sunday, February 9, 2014


A beautiful Mexican Rainbow Burro Pinata
Available here

Abuela sat down in the wooden chair that the girls brought into the room for story time.  She was wearing her Mexican house dress, the one with white flowers embroidered across the front.  She began by smiling, leaning forward ever so slightly in the dimly lit room.

 “Jalisco was a piñata that dreamed of being beaten apart for a special child’s birthday party…”
“What, Abuela?  What did you just say?” Lauren, the youngest (at five years old) sat up in bed. 

“Jalisco was a piñata that dreamed of being beaten apart for a special child’s birthday party.”

“I don't think that a piñata dreams of that, Abuela!”

“Oh, yes they do, Lauren!  Every piñata dreams of that!  That’s what piñatas are made for!  Do you want to hear this story or not?”

Lauren laid back down in bed and nodded her head, yes.  She did want to hear this story, so Abuela told it.  It went something like this:

Jalisco was a piñata that dreamed of being beaten apart for a special child’s birthday party.

 He had been made for that purpose, as every piñata is made.  A man named Luis fashioned him out of cardboard and paper mache until he took on the shape of a donkey. 

After he had a form, he was covered with strips of tissue paper in neat rows, making a rainbow.  After that, he was given two large jiggle eyes with long plastic eyelashes attached to them.

 His insides were hollow, made especially to be stuffed with treats like candy and cookies wrapped neatly in plastic.

 Jalisco loved being a piñata and on the way to the store, he and all of the other piñatas discussed the special day that they would all be broken open and spill out the candy inside of them. 

“I hope I am cracked apart after every child has been given a chance,” one round piñata said. 

“I want to be cracked by a small child,” the star-shaped piñata hoped.  “The little ones never get a chance to break a piñata and I want to be the piñata who makes a special memory in their heart!”

 “I have only one wish,” Jalisco said. “I want to be cracked open by the birthday girl or birthday boy.  Every child dreams of cracking the piñata on the day of their birthday!  I want that piñata to be me!” 

Soon, the truck stopped in front of a large carnicería, the Mexican grocery store.  (You know which one I’m talking about, don’t you?  It’s the one that Abuela takes you to for the spices to make the carne asada.)

 The driver unloaded a lot of piñatas and the store owners hung them with fishing wire from the store’s ceiling. 

For weeks, customers would choose from the colorful array of piñatas available until only one was left: Jalisco. It was hard for Jalisco not to feel lonely without all of his piñata friends; it was also hard for him not to feel neglected and ugly.  After all, he was the only one left – something must be wrong with him.  He began to wonder if he was dusty, or if his rainbow was not bright enough.  Maybe he wasn’t big enough, or he wasn’t festive enough. 

“Papa,” the store owner’s son, Manuel, asked one day.  “Can I have this piñata for my birthday that’s coming up?”

 “No, mijo,” the store owner answered.  “That piñata is for sale.  We need the money and Mama is going to make you a piñata with a balloon.” 

Jalisco was very sad.  He was sad for Manuel and he was sad for himself.  It all seemed very bleak and he didn’t think he would ever be cracked open.  If he had a heart, it would have been breaking.

 Weeks passed and Jalisco hung from the ceiling, watching the customers go in and out and never even looking at him.  It was a cold day in February when he decided he was going to end it all and throw himself from the ceiling.  He was so unhappy that even falling limp on the floor was better than the torture of being unsold. On that day, a woman with a tall daughter entered the store.

  Immediately they looked up at him and Jalisco shook with joy. 

“Please, please, please buy me!” he thought as they spoke in Spanish about him, pointing and smiling. Jalisco suddenly realized that he was probably faded and covered with dust.  Maybe the girl and her mother were just pointing to speak about how poor of a piñata he was.  But then, the store keeper came over to him,holding the broom with the hook at the end of the handle.  Gently, he brought Jalisco down from the ceiling.

 “Look, Mama,” the girl cried out.  “He has eyelashes!” 

Jalisco was so pleased.  He tried to smile even larger than his painted on lips could manage. 

Soon, the store keeper said goodbye to the Mother and daughter and Jalisco was lifted up and taken outside.  How cold it was out there!  He could feel a gust of wind on his face, and even though it was chilly, Jalisco was happy to be out and going somewhere. 

That night, the mother and daughter stuffed the body of Jalisco with peppermints, wrapped in shiny cellophane.  They stuffed him with Rosa peanut candies, lovely and smooth.  They stuffed sticks filled with sugar, candy canes, and licorice inside of him.  At last, Jalisco knew what it felt like to be full.  He loved it! The mother and daughter sealed him back up with tape and patted his back lie he was a real burro.  Then, they shut off the lights and went to bed.

 All night long, Jalisco waited with anticipation for the party.  He remembered his wish, the first day he was dropped off at the carnicería.  Maybe the birthday girl would crack him open and he would make her day special, spilling out his contents and having all of the kids run to pick them up.

 Through the night, Jalisco remembered the life he had.  He remembered Luis, who put him together with great care.  He remembered his friends and the ride to the store, how they all dreamed of being split open and throwing candy everywhere… It was then that Jalisco remembered the store.  He remembered his loneliness, hanging from the ceiling. 

He remembered the storekeeper, sweeping the floor and stocking the shelves.  Then he remembered Manual, the storekeeper’s son.  He remembered the day he asked if Jalisco could be for his own birthday party and the storekeeper said no.

 Suddenly, Jalisco felt bad for Manuel.  Even though he was excited that he was hours away from being cracked open – his life’s purpose – he was also sad for the little boy who was the first one to ever express love for him.

 Nevertheless, a fact of a piñata’s life is that there is no choosing whose party will be the one for you.

 When the sun rose, Jalisco was patient as the Mother and daughter ate breakfast and did their morning chores.  Finally, it was time for him to be hung somewhere – Jalisco could see the mother with the rope!!

 But instead of being hung up, Jalisco was put into the car and the rope placed next to him.  After the mother and daughter got in, they drove away to the location of the party.

 Jalisco arrived in the arms of the mother to a wonderful birthday party!  Everywhere he looked there was celebration! There was a soccer game being held in the front yard and as they walked in the house, Jalisco was almost hit as the ball came whirring past them. 

As they walked into the house, an Abuela was sitting at the piano playing corridos, the old songs that the Spaniards taught us.

 Then, he was walked through the kitchen, out to the patio and hung up with rope on the back porch.  The party crowd started to gather around him, and to his delight, they all had nice things to say:

 “Look at that rainbow burro! How full he looks!” 

“I love his colors!”

 “What fine eyes he has, it’s almost a shame to crack him.” Jalisco was so excited, for his moment was so close! 

As all of the kids gathered together on the back porch, one little boy in the middle of them, sweaty from the soccer game, broke into a huge smile.

 “MY PINATA!” he yelled with such joy that everyone laughed. Jalisco looked and saw that the birthday boy was Manuel, the shopkeeper’s son.  He was so happy, he shook with joy and the candy inside of him rattled around.  Most of the party guests thought it was the wind that caused the shaking and Jalisco knew that this party was the very best one he could have ever hoped for.

 It was actually Manuel’s Auntie who bought him at the store.  Also, when the piñatas were first delivered to the store,  the shopkeeper had saved him for his son just for this special day! One by one the children were blindfolded and spun around, Jalisco puffed out his chest and got ready for his life’s purpose: to be cracked wide open and give candy to all of the festive children!

Abuela smiled widely.  “The End….”

“Abuela, is that the end of the story?” Lauren asked.

“Yes, it is.  Did you like it?”

Lauren scrunched up her nose like a bunny, as if she were confused.  Her face made Abuela laugh. 

“Did you like the story?”

“Yes, but you have to tell us the ending!  Who cracked the piñata?  What did Jalisco think about getting cracked open?  What ever happened to Manuel?  What did he get for his birthday?”

Abuela stood up and straightened her dress. 

“Maybe those things are meant to be left out of the story.  Every story should make the listener wonder a little bit at the end.  After all, it’s the listener that makes the story, just as much as the story teller.”

“But Abuela…”

“Lauren, most stories never end.”

Lauren sighed and knew the story was over, even though she didn’t completely know why.  Abuela hugged them all goodnight and left. 

As Lauren went to sleep , she imagined Manuel putting on a blindfold and wacking Jalisco only one time, but doing it so hard that he broke the piñata and candy sprayed everywhere.  In her imagination, Lauren saw the kids diving to pick candy up, and Manuel throwing his blindfold in the air before he did the same.  Manuel collected enough of the candy to share with his neighbor who couldn’t come to his party because he had to visit his Uncle who was sick in the hospital. 

Later on, as he opened his gifts, Lauren imagined that Manuel got everything he wanted.  He even was happy that his own Abuela got him a shiny new harmonica, even though he asked for a piano.

Then when she finished the story in her imagination, Lauren fell asleep….