There was a Mylar balloon in my yard this morning. I only mention it because finding a Mylar balloon in my yard is part of a very long list of things that I’ve never experienced, but today that list is one experience shorter. I discovered it when I took my Pit Bull, Bailey, out for her morning walk. Normally, she waits at the front door until I release her, and then she races onto the front yard and attempts to rub the Gentle Leader from her muzzle. But this time she stopped, jumped back like a startled horse and growled her low, sub-sonic growl. When I looked in the direction that her rigid frame was pointing, I, too, was startled. It’s just not something that you’re ever prepared to see.
The balloon read: “Happy Birthday” and its string (ribbon, really) was entangled in some rose bushes that I have yet to remove from their containers and plant. Every other attempt at transplanting has ended crispy, brown and poorly, so I’ve opted to let living plants be. But that’s a different story. There was still a little helium left and the balloon swayed back and forth like a tranquilized cobra. Appropriately, Bailey proceeded to slink around, low to the ground like a mongoose, all the while growling at the festive intruder.
While Bailey was still apoplectic, I couldn’t help but smile at this random fugitive of joy that had escaped and found its way here. When I was a young boy, I loved the idea of untethered balloons, riding on a thermal, continually climbing until the helium inside and the thinning atmosphere reached equilibrium. Slowly, the helium would escape and the balloon would gradually descend. I thought how magical the place at which it came to rest must be. Surely it was God Himself who put it there because that’s who was in charge of such monumental decisions. To choose one place out of infinite places is a choice just too big for humans.
At my grandfather’s funeral, we released eighty-five red, white and blue balloons, but before we did, we wrote something special on a small card that was knotted to the string. For the life of me, I can’t remember what I wrote, but I hope it wasn’t trite. Maybe someone saw it, maybe they didn’t. Maybe a bird used it to build a nest. Or maybe it got tangled in someone’s rose bushes.
There was no such message on the Mylar, Happy Birthday balloon littering my yard.
That’s the funny thing about litter. If it were the foil from a cigarette pack sticking to the thorns, I might have been momentarily indignant, but because this particular bit of litter was used for joy, I saw in it the wry smile of Fate.
I don’t know from where it came; there were no stamps like those on a cartoon steamer trunk. Nor do I know for whom it was intended; it wasn’t personalized. To you I say: If it was or is your birthday, Happy Birthday indeed. And to God, who sent me your balloon, I say: Message received. Thanks for thinking of me.