Last Sunday Jackson was supposed to be at two birthday parties at the same time. I know! The preschool party circuit has no season, it's a year-round one-two punch of presents and pinatas. Doing anything festive on September 11 still seems a little off to me, and part of me continues to mourn while another part of me cheerfully dishes out the Scooby Doo ice cream cake so the kids can have a few more years unburdened by the horrors of recent history.

The first party was very simple, just a bunch of fairly well-behaved and highly suprvised four- and five-year-olds brandishing french fries and buckets of sand at the beach. Everyone was confined to a small, safe area and no one got sunburned and best of all I was the recipient of some searing local gossip that I cannot repeat until I think of a way to do it that won't take fifty pages of backstory to make any sense to anyone who hasn't lived or worked with me for the last ten years.

Two hours and several cups of warm lemonade later Jackson and I slipped off to the second party, which was for Jackson's neighborhood friend, Boloni, who was turning eight. The party was in a park on the east side that I never knew existed, and when Jackson and I arrived the population of gueros doubled. I was wearing my yard sale Chucks that I'd paid Boloni's mom a dollar for, but I don't think anyone really appreciated my little gesture; eighteen nicely dressed aunts, uncles, grandmas, grandpas, and cousins looked at my blue shoes, orange socks, green skirt, purple sweatshirt, and pink messenger bag with blank faces, then returned to their quiet conversations in Spanish.

I knew right away that, compared to the last party, this was going to be a free-for-all. We had missed the water balloon fights, as I could see by Boloni's soaked t-shirt, but we were just in time for the pinata. Boloni's big sister, Bianca, made sure all the kids lined up according to size, littlest first, and then Boloni's mom handed Jackson a baseball bat and told him to go for it. You could tell he was totally stoked because no one had ever let him swing around anything that lethal before in his life. Fortunately, his impulse control was functioning and he got in a few good, loud smacks, enough to garner some applause but not enough to bust it open.

Boloni was right after Jackson. Even though he's four years older, they're almost the same height, but Boloni's built up four extra years of pinata-busting savvy, and he beat the living crap out of that pinata. The Tootsie Rolls flew and all hell broke loose. Children were stuffing their mouths with candy and swinging from the trees. Except for one kid I noticed who was just standing there watching while water poured off the table that was stacked with all the presents. I walked over to find the kid staring at Boloni's new blue beta fish as it flopped around on the table, dying. I scooped the fish back into its cup and shoveled as much spilled water as I could back on top of him, gave the cup to Boloni's little sister, Monica, who ran off to the girl's room to fill it up with water, and moved as many presents as I could away from the water. "Okay, kid, how'd that happen?" I turned around, but he had vanished.

At this point Jackson told me he needed to pee so we followed Monica to the bathrooms where we found Boloni, whose head was covered in blue frosting. "What happened to you?" I asked. "I got some cake in my hair," he said, as one of his friends emerged from the boy's room with a cup of water and dumped it all over Boloni's head. "It's toilet water!" he yelled. "Aaaahhhh, get it off, get it off!" Boloni yelled. We watched them do this three or four times, laughing and yelling, but they never got all the frosting out of Boloni's ears.

I had to take Jackson into the girl's room to pee*, and when we came out we found the suspected attempted fish killer standing there, and before I knew it he got this creepy smile on his face and whipped out his dick and let loose with a festive arc of pee all over the sidewalk in front of the boy's room while a bunch of other kids started running in and out of both bathrooms pulling gleeful streamers of toilet paper out onto the grass and then running back in for more.

* To avoid confusion we don't call it the girl's room, we call it "the restroom for moms and kids."

It was mayhem. And it was cute for a minute, in a Romper Room Anarchy kind of way, but when Jackson grabbed a pee-wet hunk of toilet paper to hurl at me it was time to shut it down. I got everyone out of the bathrooms, got them to pick up the dry streamers of toilet paper, at least, and put them in the trash, told everyone to wash their hands, and then herded them all back to the party. All the other grownups had been far enough away that they apparently didn't see any of this, having strategically placed their chairs to face the other direction. Fortunately, we avoided a descent into total madness because (1) they're good kids who knew they were crossing the line (except for the little public-peeing fish-dumper -- yeah, I've got my eye on you); (2) kids are often more willing to listen to other kids' parents than their own; and (3) they run in packs, like wolves, so if you can assert an "I love you but I'm not going to take anyone's shit" alpha-dog attitude you can run the whole herd of them back to where they belong, which is on the playground being watched by their grandmas.

Which is exatly what we did. I retired to a bench near the playground to sit with the old ladies while Jackson and Monica played nicely and flirted on the swings. A lady came by honking a bike horn and pushing a cart, which I assumed would be full of shaved ice and syrup, but when she got closer and the grandmas stopped her I saw that she was selling salt-encrusted ears of white corn rolled in chili powder. They looked good, but, much like Boloni, I'd had so much cake at that point that it was coming out of my ears, so we packed up and called it a day.