The Dark Side of the Balloon

"Nobody can be uncheered with a balloon." That's what Pooh says.

While I usually consider the Bear of Little Brain the bastion of all wisdom, I have to take issue with Pooh here.

Because as a mother - and this sounds awful, so I'll just spit it out - I have come to loathe balloons. There, I said it. I'm a balloon hater.

To me, a balloon is nothing but a wolf in sheep's clothing; a bouncy floating ball of bliss one minute, an instrument of untold misery the next.

If you ever hand my Will or Lucy one of these nefarious "gifts," I will beam as if this is the most glorious day of my child's life.

But inside, I'll be steeling myself for helium-filled heartache.

Because we mothers know that after this ebullient (and all too brief) balloon honeymoon period, there's nothing but a handful of unhappy eventualities left to us.

The same balloon that is now holding aloft all my child's hopes and dreams will either a) explode in his face, b) fly into the stratosphere, or c) be dead by morning. All of the above end in piteous sobs I'd just as soon avoid.

And don't even get me started on those cruelly adorable balloon
animals.

Will got his first one during Electric Boat's Family Day a few weeks back. Shaped like a submarine he could wear as a hat, it was the highlight of his 6-year-old life.

It really was ingenious, and I have to give props to those balloon animal guys whose fingers must have been gnarled into arthritic nubs after knotting balloons into swords and butterflies for six or seven hours straight.

But telling my child that the spell would be broken by midnight and all would be as it was before - meaning, Will's prized inflatable hat would be shrunken down to a shriveled-up tube of latex within 24 hours - was like telling him there was no Santa Claus (which may not be far behind either).

Then there's Lucy, who within 60 seconds of receiving her balloon dachshund was mourning the loss of her doggie's front leg, having been shivved by a blade of grass. (Such sorrow sent her kindly grandmother rushing back for doggie #2.)

Yet even after his years of popping/flying /shriveling balloon experience, there was just no explaining to Will that balloons don't last forever, that we are brightened by them for a season (okay, sometimes a few seconds), and then we move on.

None of that mattered. He couldn't possibly be expected to part with his beloved sub hat, not so painfully soon.

Despite the flood of tears that have been wrought from my children by these latex tormenters, I guess I should still be glad for the life lessons of the balloon.

My kids don't know it yet, but the road ahead will be bumpy with the jolts of beloved things leaving us, either in the shock of a thunderbolt or with the slow hiss of loss.

Such inconsequential "starter sadnesses" (as the balloon brings) are training sessions of sorts - a bracing of the spine, a strengthening of the heart - for sadnesses to come that do matter.

Besides, this process of reaching out to take hold of some fragile joy, knowing it may not last and it may even bring sorrow, it's all part of a life fully lived. Maybe even the very best part.

So as much as I want to stand between my children and all of life's popping balloons, even I have to admit it is far better to have loved a balloon and lost than to have never loved at all.

DeeDee Filiatreault tries to be a freelance writer in Niantic while her children eat just the bunches from their Honey Bunches of Oats. You can write her at deedeect@sbcglobal.net.

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