First loss: A friendship cut short (Letter #042)

Loss is loss, no matter how trivial it might seem from outside

Dear Baobao,

It’s been so many years (decades!) since I took much interest in a balloon, it came as some surprise that you were so taken with your first one.

Friday afternoon we returned home from our semi-regular outing to the Naval Memorial park on the Ottawa River with a brand new, helium-filled orange balloon, courtesy of new pot shop which opened its doors that day and was celebrating with (yes) a small flock of balloons.

I decided to ask whether the young man out front might spare one for a “potential future customer”, and he was most obliging.

You didn’t really know what was going on at the time, but when we got home and I brought you upstairs, then let you take it the more-or-less spherical beast in hand, you were beyond delighted. You’ve seen balloons in books a few times, but the real thing was way beyond anything you’d imagined!

A spread from Sandra Boyton’s Belly Button Book.

This orange creature floated, it bounced, it escaped if you let it (at least until Mama attached a proper length of string to it). I short, it very soon became your best friend, leaving poor Kwai-Kwai a lorn and nearly forgotten turtle gathering dust upon the floor.

Well, that was Friday. Saturday, the balloon was still a source of fun and fascination, but it seemed as if you were beginning to recognize its limitations. Yes, it floated, and yes, it felt funny, and yes, it bounced … but that was kind of it.

Kwai-Kwai returned to her place at your side, at least some of the time, and other toys seemed interesting again.

Sunday, of course, the balloon was showing its age. It could no longer float to the ceiling, but hovered perhaps a metre off the floor, almost visibly wilting as its helium slowly seeped out into the world.

(And Sunday, of course, we also visited your Grandpa Carl (the author) to celebrate his birthday (a couple of days late), and we returned home too late for you to check on your new friend’s progress (if you can call senescence “progress”).

See the fork-mistress dine!
Not only a master stacker, Baobao is an elegant dinner companion.

Monday morning, this morning, I could see that the end of the balloon was nigh. It floated not at all, but merely stood on its navel by the fridge, as if dreaming that freon might somehow return it to buoyancy.

Still, you were happy to see it, and so picked it up and took a new delight in simply carrying it around. (And when it slipped from your grasp, I showed you with a gentle touch of my sandal that it could also make for a fun sort of ball, slow to rise and slow to fall.

Perhaps it was my fault, then, that the end came so soon.

In any event, I had my back turned at the fateful moment when I heard the bang! I turned to see you, fallen on your stomach and starting to cry, with a ragged bit of orange rubberized something in your outstretched hands.

I turned off the stove and knelt down to make sure you were okay and, almost immediately after, to offer what comfort I could. (Mama heard the ruckus and quickly made her way downstairs — then rushed up again for her trusty phone —) leaving me to provide solace while she took care of posterity.

I won’t lie. Though your tears tore at my heart, I could not help but also share a smile with Mama (who, it needs by said, was barely able to stifle her laughter; her heart is made of less romantic stuff than mine). I knew, of course, what you could not in that moment: that you would get over your loss, that life would carry on and joy return to yours far sooner than you could imagine.

But in that moment, there was no question but that you were heart-broken.

No, we didn’t build a coffin and bury it in the front yard, but I did allow you a solemn moment as I held you up before you dropped the body into the garbage can.

Love always, your mistake-prone,

Papa Z — July 19, 2021

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  • Kirsti says:

    Your childrearing/observational journal is a joy to read. That stems fully from the care and obvious joy you take in guiding your young charge.

    • Papa Zesser says:

      I missed your comment Kirsti, and apologize for it. Thank you so much for the kind words, and I hope you’ll forgive my lapse in blog-maintenance!

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