Killing The Balloon

There’s a balloon in my house and I cannot kill it.

My birthday was nearly two months ago, and the one gift I received from my husband was a mylar balloon. We don’t get each other presents for holidays or birthdays; it’s always been that way, though I am the sort of animal who, despite needing nothing, prefers to be showered with attention and bits and bobs representing the giver’s love for me. It’s been hell on my children and probably not so great for my friends. I’m sorry (I’m not) for my ego-driven neediness, but it’s only once a year (though I’d go for twice if I had the power).

My husband is distinctly unsentimental, so this balloon was something of a grand event. I was touched that he made the gesture after nearly twenty years together. I’m not sure if it was a pandemic driven idea or a hint of things to come (pencils? hand sanitizers? socks?), but I appreciated the ‘present’. However, after nearly sixty days of existence, this monumental gift, the thing still lurks in rooms in the house, floating, if not in full sail, with remarkable agility, is still far from that mopey, dying stance balloons get after their initial spectacular skyward entrance.

If someone else had gifted me this balloon, would I have extinguished its air and placed the carcass in the recycle bin? Probably. But, given the symbolic gesture, it just hasn’t felt right.

Thus far, my solution to actual killing has been to move the entity from one location to another. It doesn’t move by itself, of course, and often I’ll forget about the relocation program and come up its black and gold face, calm and agreeable, and feel guilty that I haven’t fully embraced its heart and soul and attached it to my belt or wrist, just to prove I appreciate loyalty and perseverance.

Most of us have histories with balloons. Birthday parties, celebrations, ‘find me here’ bouquets attached to street signs or gate posts. But history and protocols change. My daughter (rightly) told me gently not to bring balloons for my granddaughter’s birthday this year because of the environmental impact. So, this balloon may be the last one in my long history of balloons.
My strong feelings about the creatures began decades ago.

When my divorced father was in his fifties and I in my twenties, he had a beautiful and very nice girlfriend. They spent their time traveling the world, sailing, skiing, and hiking. It was like a magazine ad for the best possible mid-life crisis outcome. One day, they recounted, chortling while exchanging knowing glances, a recent adventure, one that involved balloons.

Driving on a deserted country road, they’d come across a large grouping of multicolored balloons, floating eye level above the asphalt of the road. The whimsy of the moment captured their imaginations, making their already impossibly glamorous lifestyle just a little bit more spectacular. Where had the balloons come from? What was their story? Where would they end their travels? And how absolutely cinematic that those balloons chose that abandoned road, just for the pleasure of the zesty couple. They talked about the episode for months.

I, listening to the tale, thought to myself, “Wow, this is what real grownups experience in the full flush of romance; drifting balloons, like poetry in motion.” From that moment, balloons had a mystical component, and in all the decades since the retelling of their story, I can’t view a balloon without thinking of their magical moment with their ethereal, colorful visitors.

But now I have what is likely my last balloon, a weighty gift, a dying (literally? Doesn’t seem like it) breed, and as if it were an earnest hamster with slothful tendencies but still somehow a living presence, I cannot simply extinguish its existence. This balloon could be my whimsical moment, for all I know. It probably is my grand romantic moment, and I best cherish its story and lifespan.

The balloon may very well outlast me. If it does, I hereby declare that it must rest atop all the childhood notes from my son and daughter that are in the envelope with my cremation instructions, the ashes of with, along with the remnants of my earthly body, shall be returned to the sea in an appropriate time frame.

For now, I check in with that balloon every morning, move it to a new room, just for variety (It could have a soul, right? Seems like it) and give a little nod of appreciation for its presence in my day and the reminder of an act of love.

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