Saturday night at Trader Joe’s, I watched a sweet two-year-old girl playing with two green balloons. She was tied up in the string with the two balloons bouncing around her. It wasn’t the image of a child dancing in glee like a commercial that’s played during daytime soaps. She was more matter-of-fact about hanging out with her two toys. There was a give-and-take she seemed to understand. “I play, while you balloon.” She was satisfied.
Then one floated to the supermarket ceiling.
She stood transfixed. Her dad tried to get her attention so they could leave. It was a balloon, the physics won out and the balloon floated away. He could handle this and knew she would too. But there wasn’t really anything to handle. Actually, the situation became that she was hypnotized by the balloon bouncing around the ceiling. It did seem like she was a bit bummed, “But…you were just here. It was fun. How am I supposed to go on without my balloon?” I too became hypnotized. I wondered if driving home she’d think about her balloon and what it might be doing…or maybe on a family picnic, she’d get a flash – a memory – about that time at Trader Joe’s when she had two green balloons and they were all tied up around her and how perfect everything felt. Nothing else mattered except for the balloons.
I thought about it. “I bet she does miss that balloon. I feel for her, but it’s just a balloon. I wish I could explain to her about her predicament.” It is ultimately insignificant. Loss.
And self-centered as I am, I thought about me.
Me and my contenting balloons. Playing and hanging with my own green rubbery toys, generally filled with hot circulating air. Or not. Whatever. I have my toys and my toys float away and I feel such anguish when they do. Such a betrayal when toytime is over, so unexpected and unwelcomed. With a seemingly ineffable morbid grief, I watch my pulsing heart as it lies beating its last measures on my bedroom (living room / kitchen / supermarket) floor. “Oh, how will I ever play again? Will there be another balloon? Wait?! Worse – Who’s playing with my balloon now?” I’m staring at the ceiling, transfixed by grief – and now fear too. Over balloons.
Aye. But I have only lost a balloon. It is ultimately insignificant. Loss.
I am certainly not saying that the balloon is nothing. I am saying the loss is.