the balloon

It was a perfect sun-drenched day—touched by Spring Breeze, ordered by moms and five-year-olds. It was just Jez and me–and the bright green balloon tied securely to his wrist. It was one of our rare and special no-rules days–a day for five-year-olds to express freedom of choice and moms to exercise patience.

The Park? The Book Store? The ice cream parlour? Where do we go? Time ticked away, inconsiderate of my son’s need to make this monumental decision. The lights at the crosswalk turned red, amber, green, and back to red.

“Hurry up, Jez,” I urged, concealing impatience with motherly overtones.

“Eenie, meenie, mynnie mo, catch a tiger by its toe. . . .Ice cream. I want an ice cream first,” he yelled excitedly, pulling me in the ice cream direction.

“Chocolate, chocolate chip, strawberry, vanilla, fudge?” asked the lady at the counter as big black eyes looked at me for help, And I shook my head “No,” encouraging Jez to choose for himself.

“Eenie, meenie, mynnie, mo . . .Chocolate.”

We walked towards the Park, licking our ice cream cones faster than the sun could melt them, discussing major issues—like the difficulty of eating spaghetti and the advantage of zippers over buttons. All the while a gentle breeze blew the balloon over our ice cream, spicing serious talk with laughter. A perfect day!

Skipping through sun-basking window-shoppers, Jez went ahead of me. Less than a moment later, I heard a familiar sob. I looked ahead, expecting the worst. There he was, my little boy, arms reaching up as high as they could and the big green balloon rising farther and farther away from him.

I ran to hold him as he silently cried over his lost balloon. Between sniffles, he pointed to the store across the street. “They sell bigger and better balloons. Can I have one? Please?” The quarters having gone with the ice cream, I couldn’t buy him a fancy three-dollar balloon. So I gently told him, “I can’t today, son. Maybe another day.”

Would he fuss? Throw a temper tantrum? I didn’t want to spoil the no-rules day with discipline, and “Eenie, meenie,, mynnie, mo” couldn’t help him this time.

Jez slowly looked up, clutched my hand, glued a fourth of a smile on his face and said, “Alright, Mommy. Let’s go to the Park.” No whys, buts, or I-want-it-right-now’s: just quiet resignation. Unexpected behavior for MY son, especially on a “no-rules day.”

We tickled and played, tried everything–the swing, the sliding board, the seesaw, and the sand box too. When it was almost time to return home, an elderly man came up to us. “Excuse me, Ma’am. I’ve been looking all over for you. There’s a balloon waiting for your little boy at the store.” Then taking Jez aside, he said, “Some of us saw you lose your balloon. We don’t often see little boys who don’t fuss. And we’re proud that you are part of our community.”

Jez is all grown up now. Buried in his pile of memorabilia are the remains of his neon-colored Mickey Mouse balloon. Since that bright Spring day, Jez has been through many dreary, dark ones—days when he has been bruised by life. Yet he walks into each tomorrow with memories of many experiences like that special “no-rules day”—times when God has picked him up in an enveloping hug of infinite love, tied a brand new snazzy, I-can-do-it balloon on his wrist, and sent him into the unknown tomorrow.

For a mother to learn from a child is the ultimate blessing: I have a need to know the justification behind, in front of, and all around each calamity and joy I encounter. But Jez is different. He is not bogged down by the earthly or heavenly reasons of why life deals what it does. He has that “It’s not in my hands,” laid back, content-with-today attitude. And I’m humbled by what my son consistently teaches me every time he faces hardship: I must not be satisfied with the “Eenie, meenie, mynnie, mo” When my balloon slips away, I must be able to smile through my tears and say, “Thine will be done!”

(published in the Adventist Review sometime in the early 2000’s)

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