Mylar balloons on ceiling | Jekemp | flickr | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 – 2-12-05
It all started when I walked into Walmart and found that the store had sprouted a forest of helium Mylar balloons overnight. I was an easy mark and quickly joined the hoard of impulse buyers. Who could resist the shinny dancing globes?
“I must have one,” I thought. “No, I must have two, one each of my grandchildren.” I felt rather silly in the checkout line with two balloons floating over my basket, but after all, the balloons were for sale. How else could you buy one?
I’ve never been able to figure out just how they get the helium in those silvery Mylar balloons. They seal them and fasten them to the string with a plastic clip. The balloons are then anchored with a plastic disk on the opposite end of the string, making them too heavy to float away if the young owner lets go of the string.
The balloons floated around cheerfully in the car as I drove home. One was bright metallic red and the other was pink with X’s and O’s decorating it. They were so pretty I was almost sorry I didn’t get one for myself.
My granddaughter is only five months old, and I knew this would be her first balloon. Babies like looking at bright objects. I knew she would become excited when she saw it and smile her toothless smile.
“Who are those balloons for?” asked my grandson when I drove up in the driveway, already anticipating my answer.
“One is for you and one is for your baby cousin.”
“Can I have the red one?” He eagerly claimed his prize and I went inside the house. It was hardly any time at all until I heard screams of anguish. “Oh, no, what’s wrong?” I went to check and found my grandson holding an empty string and looking skyward. The string had come loose from the balloon and it had zoomed away to freedom in the upper stratosphere. He sobbed helplessly as he watched it go higher and higher.
Promises were made to replace the balloon with another just like it. After all, it wasn’t his fault that the balloon detached itself from the string. Another trip to Walmart, another balloon purchase, and smiles were restored. Unbelievably, however, the second balloon also failed to survive. It too escaped its string and a second balloon went to eternity before making it inside the house.
“This is getting ridiculous,” said my daughter holding up the two empty strings. “I’m going to complain.” She took the empty strings, my grandson, and shortly thereafter came home with yet another balloon. “They replaced it because it was defective,” she said, but the sales person had a hard time not laughing.
Since the balloon was replaced for free, my grandson had decided to upgrade to a Scooby-Doo balloon, slightly larger, and slightly more expensive. Little did I know that balloon buying was going to become a full-time affair.
We finally learned that a balloon string is not to be trusted. Scooby-Doo was held by the balloon instead of the string until he was safely in the house. Two lost balloons are enough for one day.
For some odd reason my granddaughter’s pink balloon was fine. It seems that only red balloons are defective. Maybe it’s something in their genes that make them restless.
If you should see a shiny red balloon floating in the clouds, please wave as it passes by. It is an escape artist that has renounced its home to wander the world and explore high places.
One day the grandchildren will also break their strings and go off into the world to find a life of their own. Maybe the loss of a balloon is not such a big thing after all.
However, from now on I think I’ll just stick to buying clothes, books, and teddy bears. Balloons are way too complicated.