I have a confession to make: I hate balloons. Yes, those brightly colored staples of any child’s birthday party. Yes, those bringers of happiness to hospital rooms the world over. Yes, those orbs that bob cheerily affixed to mailboxes so you don’t miss the turn to the high school grad’s house. Those balloons. Hate ’em.
Now, I’m not denying their cheeriness or their inherent ability to make any gathering into a real party. I’m also not saying that if you give me a balloon, I won’t immediately be pleased and honored that you thought of me. I do actually believe in their innate gift for bringing joy and spreading goodwill.
How then, you ask, can I be such a hater of these life-givers, these party-bringers?
My children have ruined the experience of balloons for me.
Now, I know nothing of you or the children you know, but if they are anything like mine, you will immediately relate to the following scenario. My daughter turned 5 (or 6 or whatever…this is a composite example, not a one-time deal), and someone thought it would be really cute to give her a package of balloons. That’s right, not inflated balloons, a fifteen pack of assorted colors of the things. Upon opening this present, obviously my darling daughter wanted me to blow up a balloon. I’m sure she picked a red one, red being her favorite those many years ago.
Being a good mother (*pats self on the back*) I complied and blew up the balloon and tied it off. This action brought immediate tears and a fit of temper. Because, of course, she didn’t want it tied. She wanted to be able to play with the balloon, inflating it and deflating it at will. Obligingly, not knowing the hell I was bringing down on myself, I blew up another balloon (again, red) and didn’t tie it off. Much fun was had letting that balloon fly all over the room, and bringing it back to mom to blow up again and again, until the small rubber toy transformed into a worn out sack of spit and my cheeks were sore from blowing. Now we have a rule: All balloons must be tied when blown up.
Or consider another scenario: My handsome husband comes home with two helium-filled balloons, one for each daughter. How fun! How exciting! How thoughtful of him! He proudly hands each daughter a balloon. What a good dad. Everyone is proud and happy. For about ten seconds. Then, inadvertently, one daughter lets go of the ribbon on her balloon. It wafts up to the ceiling where it pops on the bumps and crags of the texture applied up there. This loud pop makes the other daughter startle, cry, and–you guessed it–let go of her own balloon. Friends, I kid you not, those two balloons met their maker five minutes after being welcomed into our home.
And lastly, a cautionary tale from modern times. That is, from my daughter’s birthday this year. My oldest celebrated a milestone birthday–she turned twelve on the twelfth. Around here, we call that a golden birthday, and golden birthdays deserve a special celebration. And so, it was with good humor and a hopeful outlook that I bought her, yes, a balloon. Perfect for her birthday, the golden, star-shaped mylar balloon bobbed proudly on the back of her seat in the dining room. It declared to everyone that here sat the birthday girl, the guest of honor. Much to my chagrin, others had the same idea. By the end of that birthday my daughter received six more mylar balloons (thanks Dollar Tree!). Such fun. Such merriment. What could possibly go wrong?
Have you ever counted how many days a mylar balloon can hold helium? Well, I’m telling you, friends, it has now been 77 days since those balloons came into our life and they haven’t left yet. Are they fully inflated? No. Are they deflated and folded in a drawer as a keepsake? No. They are hanging out somewhere between a fully functional balloon and a shimmery piece of garbage I can finally throw away. Literally. Unable to commit to either state of being they hang creepily half-suspended in the corner of my daughter’s bedroom where I finally banished them. These things will. Not. Die. Perhaps you will come upon me some night as I take a scissor and to the soundtrack of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho”… well, let your imagination finish this sentence.
So, if you invite me and my family to your house for a party, I will ooh and aah over the beautiful decorations. I will admire the way you coordinated the paper plates with the streamers and the cupcakes. I will even appreciate the jaunty tilt of each balloon you have carefully placed. But, please, for the love of all things, don’t send any of those eight-inch ovals of despair home to my house. And if we are ever in a restaurant where free balloons for children are prominently displayed, please don’t judge me if I lie through my teeth to my kids about who exactly those balloons are meant for, because I am never, ever bringing one home again.
Well, okay, except maybe for my younger daughter’s golden birthday.