The Balloon

For my daughter’s fifth birthday, she wanted to have some of her friends over to our house, instead of an alternate location for her party.  We were going to have the usual pizza, cake and chaos.   Of course, there had to be balloons…lots and lots of them.   They couldn’t however, be just the regular blue or green rubber type balloons either.  They had to be the shiny character mylar ones.

I can still remember standing in the dollar store with her the night before looking at all of the different designs and trying to choose which ones she liked best.  It was insanely windy outside and I wondered how in the heck I was going to get ten balloons to my car, never mind INTO my car in the middle of a storm.  The only people who can empathize with that situation, are the people who have actually had to shove multiple helium balloons into their own cars.  It’s a fine balance of pulling and pushing and shoving without popping, and praying to God that one doesn’t suddenly get sucked out of your car taking all the other ones with it.  Throw a kid in the backseat, add a windstorm, and it’s a recipe for disaster.

She had finally chosen her favorite – the Winnie the Pooh and Friends balloon where they were all wearing birthday hats.  She wanted to  make sure we bought ten of them so each of her friends would be able to take one home after the party.   But when we got the attendant to come over so we could place the order, he told us that they were all out of the Winnie the Pooh ones.  Devastated and crying, Arianna settled on green frogs.  They weren’t the prized Winnie the Pooh balloons, but they would do.

After surviving the gusts of wind in the parking lot, and getting the balloons safely into our house, I put Arianna to bed and got to work on the party favors. The house was finally quiet and my mind began to wander.  I thought about the significance of this birthday.  My fifth birthday was the last birthday I celebrated with my own mother before she passed away.  I wondered what she would look like if she were alive today.  I wondered, if she could see me sitting on the floor of my living room surrounded by mylar green frogs.  And I wondered, if she were alive, what she would’ve gotten her little angel Arianna for her own fifth birthday.   In mid thought, the lights flickered over my head, and I felt something different.  Peace.  Quiet.  Joy.  Contentment.  I can’t explain it, but I just knew she was there sitting with me, listening to my thoughts amongst the green frogs.

After tying the last balloon to the goody bags, I went to bed only to be woken up 3 hours later by a crying and feverish little girl.  We set up a makeshift bed on the couch at two o’clock in the morning, and waited for the sun to come up.  Instead of pizza, cake and chaos, it was going to be a day of saltines, popsicles, and reruns of Oswald.

Around eight o’clock that morning, on her actual birthday,  I looked outside in my yard to see sticks, branches, and other debris strewn everywhere from the storm the night before.  But there was something else.  Something shiny and round that stood out like a sore thumb……..a mylar balloon.  I slipped on my shoes to go get it.   I remember walking towards it thinking that if that balloon said happy birthday, I was going to fall over.  Well I fell over.  And I cried.  There in front of me hovering maybe in inch above the ground, was a balloon filled with just enough helium to keep it from touching down.  It was the EXACT Winnie the Pooh and Friends balloon where they were all wearing birthday hats that she had so desperately wanted at the dollar store the night before.

To anyone else, that balloon would’ve been just another piece of debris……..another piece of garbage that blew into their yard from the storm.  But to me, that balloon was a hand picked, wind strewn surprise, sent from heaven for a special little someone who was turning five and sick on the couch.  My mother, I believe,  came through loud and clear.  She wanted to make sure, as all grandmas do, that her little angel got exactly what she wanted for her birthday, party, or not.  And even though we were able to celebrate Arianna’s birthday the following weekend with all of her friends, her actual birthday itself turned out to be one of the most special and memorable ones yet.

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