Balloons. They’ve mesmerized me since I first saw them. They always make me wonder how it would feel to waft about in the air. They amaze me at their very sight.
Today, the man selling balloons on the beach doesn’t seem to be amazed by them a wee bit. He looks old and gaunt. His skeletal frame seems to be strutting across the sand like a lone stranger with no place to go. His haggard looks don’t match the fine-looking bunch of balloons he’s carrying. He’s just holding them loosely, like he doesn’t even know how precious they are, how magical they are or even how they are speaking to me. How boorish of him. Such impeccable ignorance.
‘What a wasted man’, my five year old mind thinks. I wonder what it must be like to be ‘him’. To have all those beautiful colours in my hand. I wouldn’t have sold them if I were him. I wouldn’t have held them as loosely as that vagabond does. He’s a bad man, I think. Bad men don’t love Jesus and do things that He doesn’t like. That’s what Mamma says. I wonder if he doesn’t love Jesus. I wonder if Jesus likes him selling those gorgeous balloons like that. I must ask Mamma when I go home. Mamma knows everything about Jesus.
“Do you want to eat something, baby?” asks Daddy, breaking my meticulous chain of thoughts. I don’t answer. The balloons are still on my mind. “You can get yourself a camel ride or even a horse ride if you want to”, he says again. A camel ride? Sounds interesting, but, “Daddy, could you buy me a balloon?” is all I say. My Dad nods his head in a way that means ‘NO’. He then sits me down on the sand and gives me an it’s-time-for-a-vital-life-lesson look. He explains very plainly, “Baby, a balloon is a waste of money. It’s just a useless piece of rubber with air inside. Air is all around us and it’s free of cost. But that man is making money by selling to people what God has given us freely. Ask me anything else and I’ll give it you.” He further suggests that I take a ride on the merry-go-round. But it doesn’t even make a difference. I’m fighting tears. I don’t even want to answer him or he may find out that there’s a big apple-sized lump in my throat. I could burst into tears any moment now and he doesn’t have a lightest clue of how deeply his words have cut me.
‘What does Daddy know about balloons?’ I wonder. I suddenly feel like going home and crying to Mamma. I feel like hiding my face in her lap. I feel like running away but I can see Daddy leading me to the merry-go-round. He seems okay with all that he just told me.
Each seat on the ride is shaped differently. There’s one like an airplane. Another like a shark. Then there’s still another like a motorbike and one like an elephant. The red one is a dragon, I think. Very ugly. Many little kids are around the ride and I wonder why there isn’t a seat shaped like a balloon. Anyways, I choose to sit on the airplane because it can also be in the sky like a balloon. Infant logic. Dad helps me get onto it and asks me to hold the rod tight. There’s another girl sitting on the red dragon opposite me holding a monkey-shaped balloon in her hand. Interesting. Interesting how a useless piece of rubber can take that shape. Her father is by her too. He laughs loudly and looks a lot like someone I know. I just can’t figure out whom.
The ride starts slowly and I think about why Mamma hasn’t come today. She’s usually always there with us on our outings. Daddy is waving out to me excitedly every time I pass him. I’m starting to like this ride. It makes me feel light inside. Like I’m flying. Hey! Maybe this is how a balloon feels. Dad is calling out my name loudly, ‘Rebecca, Rebecca’. Why isn’t he calling me ‘baby’ like he always does? I must ask him when I get off. I think he wants others around to know my name.
The girl on the red dragon is giggling a lot. She shouldn’t have sat on the ride with her balloon. It’s going to fly away. Sure enough, it does. It floats away from her hand. And when it does, she stops giggling and bursts into tears. I can hear her dad scream out, “Sodun dey…. naveen aanuya.” (“Leave it…We’ll buy a new one”) I look at his face and then up at the balloon. It’s quite high up in the sky now. It’s fascinating to see a monkey shaped balloon up there.
As the merry-go-round slows a weird feeling of sadness creeps in. I know that soon it will be time to go home. Dad will take me home by bus. I like a bus ride. It’s pretty interesting too, if I get a window seat. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could ride home on a merry-go-round? But then, Dad wouldn’t fit on it, would he?
He’s holding my hand now and we’re walking to the bus stop. Dad has to hold my hand or else I can get lost is what he told me. I am waiting to go home. I have lots to tell Mamma and ask her. I wonder if she has ever sat on a merry-go-round. I must ask her about the balloons, too. I can’t stop thinking about them for now. I wonder where the monkey shaped balloon is now. I wonder if it’s still in sky. Or will it go beyond that to heaven? Mamma told me once that God lives in heaven beyond the sky. And from there He watches over all of us. Will He like it if the balloon goes to His house? I need to discuss important issues with Mamma.
I can hear Daddy sing a song now. He’s always singing. I like that a lot. I think he’s knows all the songs on this earth. But does he know any songs about balloons? I want to ask him but I’m scared. He had told me they are a ‘useless piece of rubber with air inside’. What if I were a balloon would he say the same thing? I don’t think so. He loves me. He sings for me and tells me a lot of things I don’t know. I think he knows everything.
I suddenly feel pleasant—as if I’m new. I feel a cold shiver go do my spine and it excites me. So what if he didn’t buy me the balloon like the red-dragon-girl’s dad? Maybe her dad doesn’t know that balloons are a ‘useless piece of rubber with air inside’. Maybe he doesn’t know everything like ‘my’ dad does. May be he can’t sing like ‘my’ dad either.
I’m happy that I am ‘me’ and not the red-dragon-girl. I’m also happy that Daddy is he and not her dad who looks like someone I know. There’s no one who I know that looks like ‘my’ dad. I must thank Jesus now. Mum said that Jesus made us all like this—so different.
I wonder if He made Daddy, then how He Himself must be.
I’ll ask Mamma.