Wow, yesterday’s post sounded sadder than I intended it to. I was going for “reflective” and it wasn’t until I got all these “hug” messages here and elsewhere that I realized it was a total downer.
Sorry. I’m not sitting here crying into my soup, I promise. (Nor my Cheerios.) The balloon/baby connection was just one of those moments where I could see how my child’s brain was making sense of a universe that sometimes seems senseless.
Emily died in July, 2000. In mid October, 2000, we somehow ended up with a Halloween balloon. It was one of the foil-type balloons, helium-filled, with a jack-o-lantern face on it. Kiddo#1 liked it, so we kept it. I figured when it started to sink, I’d quietly dispose of it.
At some point, I realized that the balloon liked to hang out in the hallway. I figured it was Kiddo#1 dragging it around with him and getting distracted. Whatever. But at night, I’d put it in a room, and sometimes when I got up during the night, I’d walk right into it in the dark because it would be back out in the hallway again.
And once I woke up to find it over the bed.
You know how it is: you’re grieving and hormonal, and you KNOW you’re not entirely rational. Obviously this was a trick of my mind. The most likely scenario was that the forced-hot-air heating system was pushing the ballloon away from the registers in the bedrooms and toward the air-intake in the hallway. (Don’t ask me why it ended up over my bed.)
But I also believe in humoring the bad fantasies, so I moved the balloon to the family room downstairs, figuring at least that way I wouldn’t walk into it in the middle of the night.
Downstairs, the balloon had only the family room and one long hallway to wander, and wander it did. For example, it would be in the family room where we were playing; I would go down the hall to use the bathroom, and when I exited the bathroom, I’d be face-to-face with a helium balloon (which by now had lost enough helium to be at eye-level to me.)
I’d open the door from the garage, and there it would be, waiting for me right at the end of the hall.
We entered December with a slightly wrinkled but still aloft jack-o-lantern balloon. Around Christmas time, someone asked me why we still had a Halloween balloon. I said, “I think it’s alive,” and fortunately I have such a perfect deadpan that she thought I was kidding.
Well, I certainly wasn’t going to try killing it, if it was alive. And I was still humoring the hormonal/bereaved/fantasy part of me. Only a lunatic would destroy a perfectly good (if wrinkly) helium balloon because it had a face and sometimes appeared to be following her around the house and sometimes visited her in bed. And came up the stairs on its own (or tried to, but after a while it lost enough helium that it couldn’t.)
I don’t remember the end of the story. It was anticlimactic, I suppose. The balloon must have fully deflated, it stayed put in a corner, and it went out with the trash. I didn’t feel relieved or anything. The question never got answered. It’s entirely possible that living in a drafty house with forced hot air and a balloon that retained its helium for three months would always result in that kind of wandering.
But I like to think Emily would sometimes catch hold of the string and drag the balloon around the house. What would be more normal than for a little girl to play with a balloon? Especially when her brother already thought of her in connection to balloons? And for a little girl to follow her mother around the house, holding her toy? And then, like all little girls, she’d get distracted by something else and leave it, and then later on, her mother would come by and find it and know she’d been there.