Thursday, September 10, 2009


At 5:47 a.m. I discovered our son in our bed, tossing and turning and crying about "balloons."

"Balloons, balloons, balloons!" he cried, with increasing intensity.

My husband and I tried to rouse him from the semi-sleep state to find out what was causing his chagrin.

No avail.

In my half-aware dreamless haze, a variety of scenarios bubbled to surface.

Was he trapped inside a giant balloon, unable to speak or get our attention?
Perhaps a giant balloon was taking him away from us, basket or not, and the separation was killing us both.
Maybe a balloon popped, suddenly, shattering the silence of his otherwise peaceful Nod.

Finally, he fell back to sleep, face down, sprawled with his lovey, snoring loudly, back heaving slightly.
I relaxed and slipped back below the surface of consciousness.

Later, after showers and breakfasts and fights over televisions being on or off, I managed to grasp him in my arms.

"What was that all about?" I asked. "The balloons."

He looked quizzically at my face, sheepishly cast his glance aside, and then smiled.
"My balloon," he said, pronouncing its sentence, "was missing."

I stroked his thick brown hair and played with the cowlick that had arisen from sleeping so hard. "What balloon?"

"My balloon!" he insisted.

"It was a dream, sweetheart," I said, readying myself to explain the difference between the dreams we have while we are awake and those that plague us while asleep.

"I had a balloon," he said, "at Gramma and Poppy's."

In mid-August.

A balloon from a burger joint (in which neither child opted for a burger, of course) that had lingered in the house until we caught our plane back to our new city. It didn't make the trip with us. To me--one less object to pack. To him--a treasured possession left behind.

I suppressed a laugh. "Oh, that balloon."

"Yes. Where is it?" He really wanted to know.

In a landfill somewhere. Or shriveled to a quarter of its size, stuck behind a shelf in a forgotten nook in his ersatz-bedroom. Or passed along to another child.

I didn't know what to say, any more than I knew why the missing balloon had caused him so much angst. The sunny yellow sphere entered and exited his life within 48 hours, yet he asks after it, with the same intention that I email an old friend whose husband just had a stroke--checking in, taking a pulse, ensuring that she's still there on the fringes of my life.

"Um... probably in the trash," I said, trying to make my voice carefree. "Balloons don't last forever."

My husband entered the kitchen and heard the last line or two of our rushed interaction before heading out the door to school. "Yes, and Mommy and Daddy need to sleep tonight. So you need to sleep in your own bed tonight and stay there all night."

I nodded in assent before giving him a last squeeze and sending him out the door to preschool. As I watched him go, I added one last thing to my backpack before heading out the door myself and resolved to remember the balloon, the difference it made to him, and how thoughts on the edges of our consciousness can have such an enormous impact.

1 comment:

Applecart T. said...

i used to be pretty attached to balloons myself. partially because of their transience. i liked to torture myself about it, i think. they are almost cuddly and quite certainly semi-alive. there's that "red balloon" movie, remember? the little boy chases it everywhere. you might watch it first (i don't think there are ultra sad things in it, just artistic / not any dialogue, i think) and share.