I bet you have a story about helium balloons. There was a party, a birth, a funeral, or someone was sucking in the gas and making a funny voice.

Here are two of my favorite:

1. My son was 2 or 3 or almost 4. Somebody gave him a helium balloon at Burgerville. He had seen balloons before. He liked balloons. He was hugging it, probably trying to eat it, and when he let go, it shot straight up in the air. He didn’t like this. There was a string and a weight at the end, so it stopped. But still. Nik did not understand what was happening and everything he understood about balloons now had to be adjusted. His worldview and understanding changed that day, and it appeared to be rather painful. He cried. And every time we brought the balloon down, and then let go, he looked confused, skeptical. He didn’t like it.

2. A few days ago we were at the store after Thanksgiving. I was with my mom and Nik. The checker gave me the last Thanksgiving balloon. I almost declined because that was one balloon and I had two children. Nik, older now, with a worldview adjusted for helium balloons and still adjusting for sharing with others, said that he could share.

I warned him that balloons don’t last forever. I wondered aloud how long they did last. My mom said that sometimes they last a long time. This is the first time I’ve written this story down. Her sister, many years ago, went into the hospital in December. There was a helium balloon in her room. The balloon made it back to the house. Her sister died. The helium balloon, the family says, would sometimes drift through the house to the room where the family was all eating. They would move it back to the bedroom. In October, on my mother’s sisters birthday, my aunt, the woman who was in the hospital in December, the balloon fell. The helium was done being helium and turned into air.

Time is subjective. A balloon lasts a really long time (December to October, let’s say) and it can sometimes hardly last long enough. Depends how you see it. Maybe it also depends on what you are using the helium balloon to symbolize.

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