On a visit to San Diego when our daughter was not yet 2 years old, we spent an afternoon at Seaport Village — a waterfront shopping area with boardwalks, restaurants, and enticing little boutiques. I remember her in her little purple pants and floppy sunhat, running down the wooden walk with her slightly lurching gait — those chubby little legs working just as hard as they could.
We’d only been there about 5 minutes before she spied the balloon vendor with his enormous bouquet of colorful orbs. She chose a purple one — about 18″ in diameter (it truly was more than half as tall as she was) with a long, curly string. We tied it to her wrist and it bobbed above her like a special moon caught in her gravitational pull. “B-loo!” was her happy and oft-repeated cry.
We strolled and shopped for a while, and finally decided to get some lunch at one of the restaurants. Its picturesque exterior was kitschy Swiss chalet; inside it was one vast expanse of wooden floors and an A-frame ceiling that towered above us. Literally above us, because the table to which we were shown was directly under the apex of the ceiling.
A wooden high-chair was pulled up to the table and we settled our daughter. In order to take off her little jacket, and to free her hands for eating, we naturally had to remove the balloon from her wrist. Carefully, I untied it, so I could attach it to the back of her chair.
Alas [cue the sad music], I’ve never been good with knots. The string slipped through my fingers and the big, purple balloon rose inexorably to the ceiling, some 20 feet above us. As it ascended, with me frantically (and uselessly) chasing it, I could hear our daughter’s sad cries, “B-loo, b-loo…” floating after it.
She was astonishingly brave about it, shedding only a quiet tear or two; but her eyes never strayed from her balloon, lolling against the ceiling. No other balloon could comfort her. That purple balloon had been the chosen one. Somehow, she found it in herself to accept its loss; she could not — even at that young age — contemplate replacing it.
That event happened a couple of decades ago, and we still speak of “B-loo” as a dearly remembered friend. My daughter has forgiven me, but she hasn’t forgotten.