Age 6: The Humpty-Clause

By Cal Evans

Cal’s First Law of Nature:
Mothers are the most precious of all the natural resources we have.

I can’t recall many memories of my childhood that my mother was not a part of. In some way, shape, form or fashion, Mom was always there, the ever-present guardian of beauty, truth and wisdom.

Mom taught me to read but more than that, she taught me to love to read. She taught me that there are things beyond my imagination and that’s ok as long as I continue to expand my imagination. She taught me that biscuits need not be foodstuff but could be paving stones or, in time of national emergency, weapons.

She taught me the 100 reasons shopping should be considered as an Olympic event. And that age old piece of wisdom handed down from mothers to their children since time immemorial; “When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping.” But one of the greatest gifts my mother gave me was the memory of my 6th birthday.

I attended kindergarten at a small church school in a suburb of Mobile, Alabama. I will confess that I do not remember much about the school, my peers, the teachers or even Mobile at that time. But I do remember my mother explaining to me that for my birthday, she had arranged to have a party for me at school with all my friends. She prepared the goodies and even a special treat. For my birthday that year, we were going to have a piñata!

My birthday, being in December, usually has somewhat of a Christmas theme. Usually it’s not overt, but let’s face it, that time of the year, where do you find anything but red and green napkins and plates. This year was no different. We had the room decorated up for Christmas, were served red Punch-Aid in festive Christmas cups and everything was a red and green wonderland.

My piñatas was no different. Shaped, for all the world, like a 3 foot high egg, it was painted to look like Santa Clause. Actually, it more closely resembled Humpty Dumpty if Humpty had cotton balls glued all around him and was hanging from a stick.

And so we had a party. After cake and goodies, Mom brought him out to the squealing delight of 10+ kindergartners. There she stood, beaming with delight as we all squealed happily starring up into the smiling face of Humpty-Clause. Mom and the teacher tried to calm us down to explain to us what a piñata was and the part we were to play in this ritual.

As they explained, the room began to grow quiet. The squeals of delight faded as they explained that we were to take the stick, put on the blindfold and swing at the piñata. We missed the part about candy flowing from the broken piñata; all we could think of was that we’ve just been told to smack Santa upside the head with a stick. To a 6 year old mind, this is a concept to be grappled with for a moment. After all, if you were successful, you got candy, but what happens if you failed? Did Santa know you were out to split his skull open? How would this affect your gift this year? There were major issues that had to be carefully weighed here. I’m firmly convinced that years later several therapists have heard renditions of this story from patients.

Slowly, the groups split into 2 groups. There were those of us who, like myself knew that there was no Santa Clause or at least were willing to chance it for the candy. The other group, were the mortified ones. As the news of Humpty-Clause’s imminent demise sank in, they slowly began to tear up and cry.
So there we stood, our class of 10 raggedly divided into 2 groups, one group trying to claw their way into Humpty-Clause, the other working up a full-pitch wail at the atrocity that was about to be committed. In the middle were my mother and the teacher, not knowing whether to laugh or cry. And Humpty-Clause hovering scant feet above our heads on the pole Mom was carrying him on like a disembodied spirit of Christmas.

Then, passing the piñata to my teacher, Mom took me aside. Since I was the birthday boy, I was to have first shot at cracking Humpty-Clause’s head wide open with a sawed off broomstick. While this might sound fair and sweet, it occurred to my 6 year old mind that this would put me at a significant disadvantage. See if I actually did crack it open, I’m standing there with a blindfold on as candy pored out around me. If I’ve got a blindfold on I can’t see the candy to grab it. This was not to my liking at all but for Mom’s sake, I went along.

She placed me under the piñata, blindfolded, spun me around like a top for a minute or to and then began to wield my wooden broadsword to the urging shouts of my classmates, almost all who now wanted the candy, Humpty-Clause be damned.
THWAK! A good solid blow. I could feel the stick resonate in my hand like a bat after hitting one out of the park. I knew I was well on my way to busting that piñata open and into candy Nirvana. Well, I was half right, I had busted something. I took out a chair. Gotta swing higher.

POW! Yes, that felt different. It was up higher; it was a solid surface, a little more solid than I thought paper should be but still, I could tell I made first contact from the squeals of delights around me.

Energized by drawing first blood, I flailed about even harder. POP! BIF! BANG! ZOOM! On and on it went. Surely, by now candy must have been everywhere and Humpty-Clause would have been in tatters on the floor. Then I heard my mom say “Ok, Cal, let’s give someone else a turn.” Much to my surprise, as she took off my blindfold, Humpty-Clause was intact and still grinning at me. Grinning in defiance the paper surface not even scratched. I glowered back at it menacingly. There he hung, silently mocking me, laughing at me for my weakness.

I let the next child go, and then the next and the next…finally, my teacher mentioned to Mom that something had to be done because we were fast approaching nap time. Besides, after a while even watching someone whack the snot out of Santa gets old. We were getting restless and scouting out other targets. Still after all of us had taken a stab at him, there hung Humpty-Clause, grinning back at us, his treasure safe within his rotund, unscathed, shellacked belly.

Finally, her mother super senses tingling and sensing that things were going awry, Mom, in her infinite wisdom (which had obviously been set aside last night as she made a piñata out of newspaper and polyurethane) took a knife to Santa’s belly like she was gutting a fish. With a flick of her wrist, Humpty-Clause released his treasure trove.

Once again, squeals of delight came from my classmates as candy poured from the eviscerated Santa. Laugher as we innocently fed on the stuffing pouring out from him. I glanced up, he was still grinning at me but it was now a vacant stare I knew I had won. My eyes moved over to my mother, standing there with her piñata, her hair slightly disheveled. She was smiling down at us looking for all the world, like the most lovely angel in the world…who had just slain Humpty-Clause.

Love you Mom.