Friday, February 19, 2010

The Last Balloon Bouquet

The pizza has been devoured, the sugar rush from the ice cream cake has passed and ten girls are hunkered down on our couch in front of our little TV watching the movie "Up." It just happens to be my favorite movie of the last decade and one that has helped me enormously survive the last 18 months of loss, uncertainty and stress.

I first saw it in the movie theater (a rarity) last May. I went with my brother-in-law and the kids while his wife (Jack's sister) and Jack were in LA for a family birthday. We gathered our forces to get through the weekend without the spouses and met at the movieplex.

The movie started and I knew I was in for something special. The silent movie that took up the first ten minutes which showed Ellie and Mr. Frederickson's life as quickly as we all know it passes brought a lump to my throat. One of the twins was on my lap and intuitively turned to see if I was all right. I hugged her and kissed the back of her neck to reassure her I was. When the part when Ellie dies happened, I closed my eyes, already full with tears and tried to hold back the sob. My brother-in-law glanced down at me with a little concern, but I shrugged my shoulders, as if to say, "just another emotional member of this family." I got through that moment and enjoyed Ed Asner's grovel-ey voice and delighted in the introduction of Russell, the over eager and tender-hearted scout. I was sure I was out of the woods.

Until a few scenes later.

It comes right after Mr. Frederickson hits the construction guy and it's decided he's a menace and has to move to Shady Oaks retirement home. When the two orderlies come to pick him, Mr. Frederickson tells them he just wants to go back inside one more time, to say good bye to "the old place" one more time.

What happens next is a moment in my film-watching history I will never forget. First it was the sound, a ripping out of the ground and then there they were. The balloons. Thousands of them expanding into the urban  skyline. And with "the old place" tethered to it and rise up with Mr. Frederickson inside.

I actually gasped out loud. Literally, gasped with amazement and delight. Pure delight. And then I couldn't hold it in anymore. I sobbed. Hard. Hard enough to get my kids worried and so pulled it together and tried to smile. I was so happy for Mr. Frederickson. And those balloons.

Balloons are a big deal in our house. The kids love them, I'm all right with them, but my husband? He hates them. Or rather, he hates the craziness they seem to make in the house that at our advanced age of parenting, grinds on his nerves. Every birthday, he dreads the arrival of the dozen balloons, but I still get them.

When we were deep in pre-turning 8 birthday planning mode, the topic of balloons came up, of course. I hemmed and hawed and stated that I thought that they were too old for balloons. I was quickly reminded that their older sister had them at her first sleepover party when she turned eight. Well, that was the end of that discussion. In our house, what is good for the goose, aka, the older sister, is always good for the gander. Chronological democracy in action.

I ordered the balloons this afternoon and emailed Jack asking him to pick them up and assuring him that this, according to our oldest and corroborated by her sisters, would be the last year for balloons. I could almost see him smile through the computer.

The rainbow-colored balloon bouquet sits on our side table. The girls have all claimed their colors for when they go home tomorrow morning. Blue, green, yellow, pink, purple, yellow, pink and two "Happy Birthday" mylar ones for the birthday girls. The last balloon bouquet.

It's almost too much for me to bear. It was hard enough when my phone rang and one of the twins gushed on the other line, , that my mother had sent a gift card to their new favorite clothing store and added, "it's just what I wanted, sounding like a teen ager, not a just eight-year-old.

We move through a constant silent movie of our own lives, rarely taking the time to look up, let alone back. I know I have to let go of the balloons, or the girls wanted to have balloons, just like Mr. Frederickson has to let go of his house in order to find his own adventure.

But in the meantime, I think I'll have to make a note to order up some balloons for my birthday. One for every blessed year. Just might be enough to put my dreams solidly in flight. Just might.

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