Sunday, March 30, 2008

up and away

She was so excited, it's not her fault that she can't understand her mama when she tells her this is the last week of the program that I didn't mean that everyone living there now had another place to go. So she implored me to take her last night, one of the last nights of the year we'll have this program bustling with heat and laughter and crying and sleeping and filth and mashed potatoes and blankets and four very large walls that create a holding place of sorts for some of the best and worst parts of our humanity. We pull into the lot and weave the car around the already growing line of folks waiting to get inside. Clenched in her hand was a balloon, the one prize of today and the only prize that mattered, a balloon she clearly insisted had to come with us because it was beautiful and because she wanted to show it off.

So whose fault is it when her mama swung open the door to lean into the back and unhook the buckles and the prized balloon leaned into the gust and whipped around me and out of her hands and up up up into the sky.

Her wailing was immediate. I scooped her up and out so at the very least she could watch it soaring higher and higher from that ragged parking lot on a dusky last evening in March. And as the balloon became a ball became a speck I turned around and saw the line we'd parked behind was watching it too, all eyes on me they witnessed the entire thing and can now hear her cries. I walk the few steps over to the line full of haggard exhaustion, of wrinkles and dirty coats and geniunely tired smiles. A woman is looking at her kindly, several others are still watching the balloon as it races towards the end of the sun. One of the men looks at me and asks what did you tell her? And I replied that her mama screwed up and let the balloon fly away. I tried to catch it but it flew away so fast. He nods, his face serious. Well at least you told her the truth. M's head raises from the watery place on my shoulder, tears all over her face and gulps but why, mommy, why? And to everyone involved and for many more reasons than the balloon I simply have no good answer for this.

24 comments:

Angela said...

It breaks your heart when your child is in pain or upset. I am so sorry. The hugs and kisses helped and so did the fact that you did not try and diminish her feelings of loss, you acknowledged her pain. Sometimes that is all we can do, even if we feel it is not enough and feel utterly helpless to make things better. Hope the rest of the day goes much better.

QT said...

This is one of my favorite posts, friend. The writing is amazing. The stories always are.

slouching mom said...

beautiful, sad vignette.

Omaha Mama said...

My daughter has felt that same loss, so serious to them at the time. She now always insists on a slip knot around her wrist, her bag, my purse...something to hold her precious balloon to us. I wish it were that simple for other kinds of loss.

Family Adventure said...

It's the contrasts in your posts that always get to me. Beautiful post, if so sad.

Heidi

Madge said...

it's all wonderful. i especially liked "it races toward the end of the sun."

it's hard to see them face questions that simply have no good answers.

flutter said...

There are no definite answers, only ideas on how to get there.

This was beautiful, jen

Blog Antagonist said...

It's hard to be a child. I think sometimes we forget how confusing and scary it can be. Poor M.

TEOM? said...

There really is no good answer - why do some of us have such treasures of luck and love and others have to watch, helpless, as precious things float away. Great post.

cce said...

The balloon thing always kills me, so temporary, fragile, ephemeral. Now sure what to say about the shelter being that kind of fragile, was it only a seasonal solution?

I used to tell my children, when the balloon floated far out of reach that the mylar helium fun had to leave and go to another party, to make some other child happy for a moment in time. I think I got the idea from a child's book. It seemed to work until they grew old enough to except the notion that "shit happens".

meno said...

I would tell Em to make a wish and that if she watched the balloon until she couldn't see it anymore her wish would come true.

Beck said...

Poor baby - we lose things and there's no really great answer.

Karen said...

sympathy all around is in order - we're all here together.

ms chica said...

M's balloon represents so many of life's experiences... Still after all these experiences, I am at a loss for words and understanding.

Ally said...

Oh, Jen, my heart. I don't know how you do it, capturing the truth of the human condition in all of its beauty and pain. But here it is again. My heart.

Kyla said...

Why, oh, why?

So many questions without answers.

painted maypole said...

heartbreak everywhere, eh?

mamatulip said...

Letting go of a balloon, watching it bob up into the sky and take flight, is one of the most painful things for my kids, too.

This is such an exquisite post, Jen.

Wayfarer Scientista said...

sometimes that's just the way life goes isn't it? And there are no reasons or answers.

Magpie said...

Why indeed?

But we try.

NotSoSage said...

The truth...it's so hard to be responsible for telling it. But that's you in so many ways, jen.

Loralee Choate said...

I remember feeling just like that as a kid.

Jocelyn said...

Absolute poetry.

I have an image in my mind from 13 months ago of a red balloon floating away into the sky, my son watching it, sadly.

He reminded me of that moment just a month ago.

Tis I. said...

Oee's balloon did the same thing, once, in a mall. She was awestruck at the height it achieved and grief-stricken at losing it. I had to explain that we all lose things from time to time and that while it's okay to be sad, we have to let them go so that we are not sad for quite so long.

And, while it was a good lesson to learn.. I still felt like a bitch for not keeping better care of that beautiful balloon. And, when she asked me about the lady without shoes who was walking home from the mini-mart last month, I had to explain why she was alone and without, when I had not done nearly as much as I did that day for that balloon.