"If we are going to have a party, we need to have balloons," I said.
"Bob, it's not that kind of party!" she told me. "This is for adults."
How sad. Maybe she was better off than I. Never letting go of childish things has been a challenge for me. There's a small sign hanging on my bulletin board in my office that says it all, "Refuse to grow up!"
So far I've done a great job.
"Okay." I said. "What else can I do?" She went over all the last minute details and handed me a list of things I had to accomplish. As soon as we said goodbye, I added a few more. "One tank of helium, one hundred multi-colored balloons and ribbon. Now that's a party!"
I arrived at the hotel two hours early. If I was going to get all these balloons up, it would take me at least an hour and half. I had no sooner finished when she walked in the room. "Bob! Where are you? Did you do this? You did, didn't you?" The child inside me immediately went into denial.
"What? Did I do what?"
"Oh, gee, I don't know," I said. That's always a standard answer for kids. Whenever they get caught they say, "I don't know."
"Well, it's too late now. It looks like a carnival," she said.
"Really? I was going for a circus look," I said smiling. She walked away.
I loved the way the whole room looked and I believed that everyone else would, too. In fact, I was betting that most of those in attendance would love the balloons and by the time the luncheon was over, they'd be fighting for them. I was right.
I stood in the back of the room and watched grownups walk out with balloons tied to their wrists, belts, and yes, a few hats. Oh, I did hear a few excuses.
"They are for my grandchildren."
"I'll give them to the children next door to me."
But in the meantime their faces lit up and their smiles were undeniable. They giggled and laughed as they tried to make it through the hotel doors. I was right, and the kid in me needed to find my friend and tell her so. Of course I'd be adult about it.
"Ha, Ha! I told you so!" I said proudly.
"You're so childish!" she said. She rolled her eyes and walked away.
I turned to gather my things and found a lovely elderly woman standing just outside the ballroom. "Did you forget something?" I asked.
"Oh, no. Not really. I mean..." She turned toward me and softly said, "I feel foolish asking this, but are there any balloons left?"
"It's not foolish at all. Let's look inside."
"I just wanted one," she said.
Off in the far corner pressed high against the ceiling, I discovered one last bunch.
"No, please don't bother."
"I insist!" I said.
In a matter of a few minutes I was holding ten of them.
"Oh, I only want one. One would be more than I ever had before," she said.
"You never had a balloon before?"
"No, my father wouldn't let me. Things were very difficult when I was a child. We didn't have enough food and clothing let alone money to buy such silly things." Her soft, warm smile melted my heart. So poor she couldn't have a balloon. I never thought of a balloon that way.
"Where are you parked?" I asked her.
"My husband went to get the car. He'll be right out front," she said.
I took her by the arm and walked her to the front door. There, standing on the other side was her husband. When we walked out I could see the shock on his face.
"Are they yours?" he asked.
"No, sir. They belong to your wife," I told him.
"All of them?" he said.
"Honey, it would be a shame to waste them. They'll just throw them away," she told him.
I recognized the child in her immediately. When all else fails, beg and whine a little to get what you want. It worked, too.
We opened the trunk and tied them to a tool box inside. Then, for the next several minutes, the three of us tried desperately to push them in. We laughed so hard...like children, I suppose.
We said our goodbyes and I watched them drive away. Suddenly, I started laughing all over again as I pictured them opening the trunk and seeing ten helium balloons burst skyward.
"So poor she never had a balloon. Now she has ten," I said to myself. I went back inside, retrieved the helium tank and headed to the shopping center near my home. I knew I had more helium and now a newfound mission.
I stood there on the sidewalk handing out balloons to anyone who wanted one until I emptied the tank.
Childish? Yes, every one of us, and proud of it!