Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Bye Bye Balloon

By Keith Lee   Copyright 2009

I remember walking out of the grocery store one day and seeing this little girl with a big orange balloon in her hands. She just kept watching that colorful circle bounce around in the wind. It was really windy that day and I thought she would loose that precious bubble in a matter of seconds. I don’t always like being right. She didn’t cry when the wind took it to go dancing in the sky. It danced in the sky moving back and forth. She did look sad, but in a mature way. It was like she was letting something else go like a thought, an emotion, or just a part of herself. She just said bye bye balloon and watched fly away.

I have never had luck with balloons. My parents never bought things they felt were not practical. I never stopped my asking for the unpractical. My mom would say no balloons because they were done by the next day. She finally gave in and got me a small package. As she blew them up I waited for them to hit the ceiling.

“What are you doing?” she asked with a puzzled face.

“I’m waiting for them to hit the ceiling” I said without looking down.

“These aren’t those kind of balloons.” She started laughing. “You need helium for that.”

“Heliuummm? What do these do?”

“They stay on the ground. You can play with them on the floor.”

“But how?”

“Kick them!” My dad was getting annoyed with conversation. “ Through them or just kick’em like this.”

The next thing I saw was a flurry of color hitting me in the face. Red, yellow, orange, green, blue, and purple and the bouncing noise that followed each sure fired rapid shot. There was a moment of shock. It didn’t hurt, I didn’t cry, but yet it felt disturbing. I’m sure they were not intended to hit me but the ending result cured my interest in balloons for a long time.

My kids do not have luck with balloons either. My son always pops his before we get home. There is usually a loud pop followed by a moment of silence, then my son crying, my wife and daughter laughing, and me pulling into the driveway wondering if I hit something or have had a blow out. I remember one windy day when I just knew one of my kids were not going to make it back with their balloons. I took them from their hands and put them in our car for safe keeping. I opened one car door and my son opened up the other. I put the balloons in one car door and they flew out the other. As we watch the balloons fly away my wife enjoys a good hearty laugh as my children look at their flying balloons and ask me how and why did I do that. It was daddy, daddy go get them back.

I felt bad. I laughed but I still felt bad. A balloon means the world to a child. You can see it in their eyes. When do we stop liking balloons? When do they stop being so fascinating and important to us? When do the most simple of pleasures stop us from enjoying? When do we grow up? Some of us never grow up. I knew I never would. I think it is interesting that I live in a city that has a yearly hot air balloon festival. Coincidence?

I remember all this today because the hot water heater broke down last night. Times are hard and we didn’t need this expense. I was just trying to concentrate on keeping our house. The cars need some work. Yard work is piling up. The house needs cleaning. I have to go to my home town and deal with “FAMILY” issues. We are at a time of war. Do we eat or pay bills?

Today my wife researches the world of water heaters and I go to work. The day is spent with my wife and I talking on our cell phones trying to figure out the best deal. If we go to SEARS right away and purchase before noon we can get one installed the same day. I can’t afford to take off, but I can’t afford to go the weekend without hot water.

We get there and my wife has it all figured out as to which one we need. That is a good thing because there sure isn’t anything interesting to look at on a water heater. I mean they all look the same. They even have them in the very back of the store. Not a show room item in the least. My wife begins the negotiations and my mind begins to wander.

What is that over there. It looks like balloons. Pretty balloons just floating so free.

I walk over to them. They are so colorful. I want to take one home. I know, I’ll take them all home.

“Sir.... can I help you?” asks a voice from behind me.

“No thanks. I’ll just help myself!” I say as I take the balloons that were tied to the riding lawn mower.

“Sir, You can’t take those.”

“Who is going to stop me tool guy. YOU!?!”

“Hey, can I get so help over here?” the salesman says motioning over at the other counter.

Two other guys come to assist. I make a bee line through gardening knocking over shovels as run by with “MY” balloons. As I jump out into the dishwasher area I knock over a little old lady. I felt bad but she was in the wrong lane and she needs to watch where I’m going. The three guys chasing me trip over the old lady. I got a straight shot through the big screen TV department. there is the door. I look back for my wife and she is still arguing. She is on her own. This is about me and my balloons.

I’m about to hit the door when I see the lady from the vacuum cleaner department jump in front of the doors. She is holding the new Kenmore M6E330 XL Champ. It can suck up anything. It could suck your face off the bone but that isn’t what she is going to suck up. She is looking at my balloons! She is going to suck up my Balloons! I see her switching the vacuum nasal to the head with extra sucking capability.

“YOU can’t stop me Vacuum Lady!” I say out loud. “No one can stop me! I’m busting out of this mall, and the balloons are coming with me! DID YOU HEAR THAT?!!! THE BALLOONS ARE COMING WITH ME!!!!!!!” AAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!”

“Keith. Keith! KEITH!!!! I said they can’t deliver today. Are you paying any attention? What do you want to do?” My wife says to me in that all too familiar voice.

“What?” I say back as if I just woke up from a dream. I even check my mouth to make sure I’m not drooling. “Oh yeah, sure.”

“Sure what?”

“Uh.... what was the question?” I say realizing only after the fact that that answer is going to get me into a lot of trouble.

It takes a little review but after I have been told all the facts I seemed to have missed, we make our decision and head out.

“Do you want to something to eat?” my wife asks me.

“No I can’t. I got get back to work.”

“I can bring you something? What do you want.”

“A balloon.” I answer.

“What? No really what do you want?”

“This whole thing has made my stomach upset. I’ll just go to work. Thanks!” I say good bye and drive off.

As I’m driving off I can’t help but think about money. I think about all the pressures involved with money. When did any of this become so important? When did play time stop? When did ..... what is that over there. It looks like..... balloons.

“Welcome to T-Mobile” says an overly excited salesperson. “Can we open up an account for you?”

“I want one of those.”

“You mean the balloons. Oh you have a little one in the car?” he says with a chuckle.

“No, I just want one of those balloons.”

“I can’t give you one. There for paying customers or kids.” his tone changes.

“Do you know who I am? I know Karate” I jolt back with a blank stare.


As I’m escorted back to my car I realize I’m having a nervous break down. I’m trying to latch onto my childhood. When and where did I loose it? Where is that playful energy? When I look into the mirror I see my dad. When the hell did that happen? Where did I get all those lines in my face? Everyone else I’m around never grew up so why did I?

I grew up because it was time. I have a family that depends on me. Because I love them, I can’t let them down. Because I love them I keep the outside world at bay so that the can enjoy life without the worry or the weight of the world. I grew up because I needed to for myself.

I guess I miss the passing of the torch. African tribes as well as Native American tribes have ceremonies when a child passes over into adulthood. It is a right of passage. This “Old Dawg” needs a party. It is time to recognize the child in me and be able to let him go so that I can become a man. I know just how I am going to do it.

On my next birthday (which is June 18th for those keeping score) I’m going to celebrate in style. Instead of presents I want balloons. From now until then, every week I’m going to buy a package of balloons. On my big day I’m going to air them up with helium and let them hit the ceiling. I’m going to write on them with a fat marker all the thoughts, worries, concerns, memories (good and bad), and just random things about me now and as a child. Then I want my family and who ever else is there to lie on the floor and watch my thoughts travel in and out of the room. You are all invited of course. Then before sunset, we will gather them all up and take them out side. We will let them go as the sun goes down and I will say good bye to my thoughts.

What goes up must come down, and as they come down I hope they inspire the people that find them to think about themselves and their thoughts. By letting go I hope I can begin to Red


                                                                            grow and feel my age with



                                        grace and intelligence.

                        Be the father my children need me to be.



                                Be the husband my wife needs me to be.


                   Remember and cherish the child I was.




                                                                             just maybe,



                                              I’ll be ready to be an man.


                                                                     Yeah, right!

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