It started a few days back. For some reason, Anna decided that she wanted a balloon. Desperately. "Balloon, mom. I want a balloon. Can I get a balloon? When are you going to the store? Can I come along? Could I pleeeeeeeeaaase have a balloon????"
She was very passionate about this balloon request, and I figured that a $.97 latex balloon wouldn't break the bank. So I said yes. Next time we were at the store, I'd make my little 4-year-old happy with a bright pink balloon.
Fast forward to Sunday morning. I was working at my desk and Anna was reading besides me. Suddenly, she hopped out of her chair and said, "Mom, there it is. I see something yellow out the window. I think it is a balloon." She started dancing around. "Mom, mom. It's MY balloon."
So, we threw on our coats and shoes to go investigate.
Sure enough. A balloon floated into the back of the yard and had gotten caught up in the tall grass and weeds.
Of course, Anna was thrilled with her find. But admittedly, the balloon was pretty deflated and probably didn't have much life left in it. So, later that day, when Ray announced he was running to the store, Anna attached herself to him and insisted that she go along. And that we make good on our promise - - a "real" balloon.
And so off they went.....
About an hour later, I heard Anna and Ray returning from their shopping trip. With a grin from ear to ear, Anna walked through the door, holding the hand of a near-life-sized Austin balloon (for the non-preschooler set: Austin is a character from a kid's TV show called The Backyardigans). Literally, it was almost as big as she was.
(Note to self: next time, be much more specific about balloon options and - um - limits with Papa).
Of course, Anna was over the moon. She could hardly contain herself. "Mom, I'm going to pretend Austin is my friend today. We'll play and I'll talk to him and we'll watch Backyardigans together so he can see himself of TV and it will be so much fun."
After 15 minutes of Austin playing time, Anna decided she wanted to have her picture taken with the giant balloon. And, because the light wasn't very good inside, we headed out the back door for a quick balloon photo shoot, with Anna holding firm to Austin's hand.
(Yes, you know exactly where this story is headed....)
As I tried to get everything situated for a photo, Anna held a strong grip on Austin. However, the balloon deflated a bit in the cold outside. And as the air contracted and shifted, it startled Anna. Without even thinking, she let go....
She. let. go.
I turned just in time to see Austin floating up and away. I jumped to try and grab his foot, but I was a moment too late. He was off. For 10 seconds, we just stood there frozen. And we watched. It was one of those crazy slow-motion moments. Austin floating off into the gray winter sky, almost waving goodbye to us in the breeze.
Without even thinking myself, I snapped a picture.....
When I looked back at Anna, I saw my baby girl, leaning against the wall. Gazing up into the sky. And suddenly across her face, you could see reality sinking in. Austin was gone. And she started to sob - - the really, really big four-year-old sob. Anna just lost her best friend.....(well, at least her balloon best friend.)
Anna turned and bolted up to her room. She threw herself in a corner, and cried. I think it was the saddest I've ever seen my little girl. For the longest time, I couldn't offer any comfort. The tears just wouldn't stop. And my heart broke.
After awhile, Anna recovered, but she talked about her lost friend all day long. She kept telling us how sad she was. And she asked to look at the picture of Austin floating away, again and again......
Just before bed, she said "Mom, I'm not so sad anymore. I'm just a little sad. I hope some other girl finds Austin to play with, just like I found the yellow balloon."
My sweet girl.
Yesterday, I did what any Mama would do. (well, at least any push-over Mama like me.....)
We made a little trip back to the store. And when we carried Uniqua from the store to the car, we all held on for dear life. No one was letting go of the balloon this time. Mama made sure of that!
Somehow, Anna's $. 97 latex balloon idea had turned into a very expensive $20 adventure. But in the end, it was worth it just to see her grin from ear to ear - not once, but twice! Plus, we have a pretty good story to tell.....
And pictures? Well, damn the bad lighting conditions. We're staying inside.