62: The Yellow Balloon

62: The Yellow Balloon

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miracles and More

The Yellow Balloon

Hope is faith holding out its hand in the dark.

~George Iles

It was one of those Erma Bombeck days. The phone hadn’t stopped ringing, I had loads of laundry to do, and Karen, my four-year-old, was my shadow, tugging at my shirttail and whining for attention.

In desperation, I rummaged through a closet and found a bag of forgotten balloons. “Yellow,” she said with delight. Yellow it was. Immediately, the balloon became a favorite friend, and she latched onto it with pudgy fingers, carrying it around the rest of the day and telling it secrets.

It was, of course, my turn for carpool duty. Considering the way my day had gone, I was not surprised that I was already running ten minutes late as I backed out of the driveway. Karen chose that day to sing “It’s Not Easy Being Green” over and over again. It would not have been quite so nerve-wracking had she not paused between each stanza to beat the balloon against the dashboard with agonizing regularity. Three times. Never two. Never four. Well, I rationalized, at least she could count to three.

Once the back seat was full of second graders, I was thankful for their exuberant, half-hearted bickering, which helped drown out Karen’s singing. As I turned the corner, trying to keep my attention on my driving, I felt a gust of wind blow across my feet. I responded automatically, “Karen! Please. Close the window. It’s freezing out!”

And then I heard the kind of shrill, panicky scream that stops the heart of even veteran mothers. Frantically, I looked over my shoulder, expecting at the least to find a gigantic tarantula, a broken limb, or a quart of blood pooling on the freshly shampooed carpeting. But it was Karen I saw, both arms extended out the window as if in supplication, as she cried beseechingly, “B’loon, b’loon. Come back! Come back!”

With the exception of Karen’s heartbreaking sobs, there was not a sound in the car. We all watched mute and helpless as “b’loon” floated into the jaws of the busy intersection, miraculously surviving unscathed as it bounced between an orange VW and a white Ford pickup and then disappeared into a clump of very pointy pine trees.

By the time we reached home, the promise of a new balloon, two new balloons or even ten new balloons had failed to calm Karen. As I held her on my lap and rocked her, I wondered how to explain how far “three miles to school” was, and the inevitable consequences of frail balloons meeting concrete, grass and trees.

But that night, as I tucked her into bed and kissed her cherub cheek, she was oddly calm. “My b’loon will come back. Mommy,” she said with the naïve assurance of a child taught to trust. I wiped back the tears, feeling slightly betrayed. There was no chapter in any baby book on coping with lost balloons and a child’s unquestioning faith.

Three weeks later, I sat at the dining room table, watching Karen with a warm maternal glow dampened with a tinge of sadness. She was so small, trusting and vulnerable. I couldn’t help but wonder how many yellow balloons life would take from her. Suddenly, she stood up and went to the front door. She tugged it open, and then Matilda, the favored doll of the day, was dropped unceremoniously to the floor as Karen bent and picked up… a yellow balloon.

The yellow balloon?

She raised it to her cheek for a moment, then kissed it tenderly and said, “I knew you’d come back.” She skipped into her bedroom to talk with her long-lost friend.

Now, I will never know what caused Karen to open the door at that precise moment, nor how a balloon, a yellow balloon, came to be on our front porch steps. But what I do know is that Karen showed me, in the way of a child, what faith is. And in the future, when I find myself treading water in one of life’s deeper valleys, I need only think of yellow balloons to know, with childlike faith, that tomorrow is another day. And nothing, my friends, is impossible.

~Candy Schock

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