Balloons are on the news. Do we care?

Who amongst us has never held a balloon? Picking the color. White? Yellow? It takes time.

Remember feeling that ethereal tug on the string? A balloon is like a bird. It wants to fly.

You just remembered, didn’t you?

Do you remember the flutter you felt in your heart when the vendor gave you your first?

It’s like finding in a drawer, the Valentine of a childhood love, the remains of a wedding flower pressed in an old Bible.


Balloons do that, even airless, limp and packed away as mementos. Balloons do that.

You’re remembering now how you ran around in a park or your backyard, clutching that fragile string, and then feeling the heartbreak of it slipping away from you and flying away? Give it a thought for a moment. Remember? Sure you do.

The balloon, no matter the color or size, is a metaphor for so many events, small and great moments in our lives, is it not?

Close your eyes for a moment, and recall that someone giving you your first balloon. Wasn’t it like, years later, someone giving you your first kiss, after a yes, when you expected a no?

Look up now at the balloons that floated around you at the prom, floating slowly up to the ceilings, watching you fall in love as the music swallowed your whispers.

Even after years have passed, a balloon can spark a memory of dancing in the moonlight to music from a car radio.


My first balloon was at my sixth birthday, when my sisters decorated the table with balloons. Even before I tore into the gifts, I grabbed the yellow one and raced to the yard.

I meant to tie it to one of my mother’s rose bushes, thinking it would last the year.

My thumb suddenly met a thorn, while a September breeze grabbed my prize and took it over the garage and down the alley.

They say I chased it for blocks, through the alley and around the corner, before it floated over the convent fence and out over the river.

Then it sailed away, out over the Mississippi and farms of Illinois. With my heart in my mouth, I watched it disappear.

My sister Eileen often said, “How you cried.”


What’s a birthday without balloons tied to the table, held aloft by guests, the color of flower girl’s bows at weddings, white, to match their dresses and gloves?

We drive by homes at graduation time, and count the balloons, each with the school colors, tied to the mail boxes, bannisters and fences, held tightly by senior boys and girls, so parents and friends can take endless photos and movies.

I recall a date in New York. She offered glasses of merlot and pimento studded cheese cracker, while showing me her high school yearbook with the remains of a yellow balloon pressed between the pages. So that’s where it went?

Of course, how could I not hold her in my arms and tell her the story of my fly away balloon, as she closed her eyes and fell asleep.

My plans for the night, like my balloon, floated away. Oh, well.

Balloons can remind us of forgotten eyes and touches that have flown away over all the rivers of our lives, when all we had to do was hold them more tightly. One misstep, and off they went up into the blue. Gone forever?


Like the girl on the escalator, the one with auburn hair, the one with a lavender tweed coat, the one who tried to hide her smile. That one.

I thought she was going to be my yellow balloon and fly away.

But she didn’t. I have the string still. It’s a long story.

Go buy a balloon.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer. 

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