Time flies. And then there are days that seem jet propelled. And in months that I haven’t written I’ve: visited ten independent New York City schools, attended 30 related events‑open houses, parent interviews, child interviews…opps I mean play dates, diversity nights, curriculum nights—mixed in with Christmas shopping, then the holidays with friends and family, and fought to assembled a two thousand piece, three-foot-tall My Pretty Pony Castle that Santa brought, and won.
( Okay, I was Santa, and it wasn’t that bad, in fact it’s pretty cute.)
Cooking Christmas dinner for my family, hosting the Holmes Family Annual Jenga Tournament on New Years Eve, MLK Day, Presidents’ Day, and tax filing. So the time and attention that frequent went to my blog, went to, say, my life.
Then came 100 day at Julia’s school.
A day I’ll never forget. Not because I’m a closet arithmomaniac, but for the creation Julia and I made for the event.
“Remember Mommy we have to make our 100 project,” Julia reminded me at breakfast, in celebration of 100 days of school.
“I do. I’ll have Natasha pick up the materials to make our project.” Then I grabbed my purse, plucked out my wallet and pealed out twenty bucks then slid the bill on to the dinning room table‑‑for the purchase of a Mylar balloon and a bag of 100 count cotton balls.
We would make the sky.
The only hard part of the day I anticipated was ditching my annual co-op board meeting so I’d have the mental bandwidth to work with Julia. The meeting is held in the building’s lobby. And there’s one way into the building, through said lobby. So one has to do the walk of shame past the board members and the other owners, just to get home, to your child, to your second job.
The hardest part of being a single parent is my inability to divide myself. And while I wanted to attend the annual meeting which covers a deep dive into the building’s finances: how many gallons of heating oil the boiler burned this winter, healthcare costs of the doormen, future projects and more all that data would have to wait for me to receive the published report.
I had a date with my daughter.
I came in the house ready to dive in. As Natasha gathered her coat and purse, she said, “I purchased quick dry glue to make it easier,” then she headed to the front door.
I couldn’t image why she’d bought glue since we had glue in the house. About twenty cotton balls in, I understood. Cotton is surprisingly unwieldy. After an hour of teamwork, and the support of a glass of Cabernet for mommy, the blue sky with clouds was really taking shape. Another half an hour, Team Holmes had completed the job. By then Julia’s bedtime had arrived. Pajamas on, teeth brushed, when I went to tuck her in, I found her room empty.
“Where are you?” I called out.
I heard her patter down the hallway and pop into her room, all smiles. “I was saying good night to the sky.”
The next morning Julia shook me from sleep with a latest balloon report, “I checked on the balloon sky,” she said. “It’s dry!”
Quick dry glue indeed.
We had breakfast and dressed, then I searched for a large enough plastic bag to transport our work of art to school.
“No! I want to carry it,” Julia said, hugging the cloud to her tiny chest.
“It would be easier to carry in a bag.”
“No, Mommy, pleaseeeeee.”
Minutes later Julia was clutching the balloon like a baby seal walking out of the elevator into the lobby.
“Oooohhh, I like your balloon,” Carlos the doorman crooned.
“Mommy and me made the sky!” Julia announced.
Then we walked out of the building and into the bitter cold March morning. Our twelve minute walk to the subway station on Broadway wasn’t looking so fun.
“Let’s take a cab,” I said.
Seven minutes later we prepared to exit the cab in front of the school. The building is very close to the Hudson River so it’s always quite windy, even on mild days, a fact that I forgot although the taxi was being pushed and shoved by an invisible gale.
I passed the driver a twenty then instructed Julia to “get out and go to the curb,” while I waited for my change. And few seconds later I heard the sound of screams blasting against the taxi’s windows. Julia. I leapt from the cab and found her hopping up and down on the cement in a frenzy. No blood in sight. But silvery tears streaked her brown face, as she pointed down the block, at the sight, the Sky Balloon, tumbling and falling down west 120th street in the gale.
I’ve seen some shocking things of late: The rise of Donald Trump in his own global reality TV show, Pluto’s demotions from a planet into a plutoid, and Bruce transforming into Caitlyn the Vanity Fair Magazine pin-up girl, but seeing my child’s 100 day project manhandled by the wind, hemorrhaging cotton balls across the sidewalk, my daughter sobbing, crushed me beyond belief.
“Grab it!” I yelled.
Julia and I took off after the blue balloon tumbling across the grey cement. For a good fifteen feet I scrambled to collect the white wounds as the battering winds shoved The Sky towards Claremont Avenue, towards the destruction that passing car tires would levy. Fear clutched my throat. I quickened my pace. Julia would not recover from seeing the death of her Sky. I had to stop it. I sprinted harder. But The Sky was too fast for me.
I spotted a man standing at the corner waiting for the walk signal, about twenty feet ahead. “Hey, HEY!” I yelled. “Grab that balloooooonn!!!!”
The man snagged the sky like a soccer ball, scooping it into his arms. I ran up to him and had to fight the urge to thrown my arms about him.
“Thanks so much!”
The man nodded, smiled then moved away. I sensed he was a parent, he knew the baby bomb was about to go off.
“It’s ruined!” Julia moaned, her face reddened and wet. “I’m the only one who won’t have a project!”
“No! I brought the glue! I can put them back on!”
“But it won’t be 100 cotton balls,” she sobbed.
I reached into the pocket of my jacket, and pulled out a wad of white.
“No, I got them all,” I lied, eyeing a few victims trapped in the near by storm drain.
Ten minutes later, after I dried Julia’s face and dropped her at the gym with her class, I was hard at work reapplying lost bits of cloud, using the top of her clubby as a work station. Passing parents eyed me curiously. I hardly noticed, my mind focused on the thoughts running like bulls through my mind. One in particular stood out, the most important balloon lesson of all: There will always be something, a lost balloon, a lost job, seemingly lost chances. There will always be something that threatens to upset the day, the child, the mom. Such is the life of a parent, especially a single parent. All I can do is make sure I have glue, and good prayers.
Twenty minutes later, I slid into The Big Sing, a monthly event the school holds, just in time to applaud the last two songs the children sang with my sticky, shiny, gluey hands. When the Head of School announced it was time for the grown ups to leave, and the children started singing and the “Goodbye Grown-Ups!” song, I made my way through the throng of people over to where Julia’s class sat.
“Have a great day, your project is on top of your cubby.”
“Why I didn’t see you here before?” Julia asked.
(Well her last name is Holmes, but still I found the question surprising.)
“I was upstairs fixing The Sky for you.”
“The whole time?”
“Yes, the whole time…Can’t be in two places at once, Jules.”
She thought about it for a moment.
“Well I guess putting the sky back together is more important than The Big Sing.”
I wanted to tell her that she would use that observation to put many things back together during her life, that she would use her spiritual glue to repair broken dreams and smashed goals. That she would one day again watch another beloved tumble way from her, trampling heart, and would have to decide whether to chase it down. Or let set it free. That wild winds would blow her good away, along with her faith in right and proper outcomes. And that she would have to make a choice every single time. Let it go. Or get out her bottle of glue and remake the sky.
2 thoughts on “A Balloon Tale”
I really enjoyed reading this!
Elka Park Ny
Thanks so much for reading!
All the best,