Return to the Skies

Losing that purple balloon just about broke Flora’s heart.

Flora, while she can be quite dramatic, is not one for huge tantrums, especially in public. But that purple balloon set her off.

Is it funny that I think of “dropping” balloons? Because a dropped balloon doesn’t actually drop — it floats up, into the sky.

And sets a 6-year-old off on an epic tantrum.

I was juggling timing and more: Michael, who had been increasingly clingy in the store, needed to get home to lunch and a nap; the girls and I were ready for lunch; I had bags and bags of groceries to load into the car; and, of course, the children to get in and buckled up.

I had rewarded the girls with balloons for being such good kids throughout the morning, purple for Flora and pink for Kate.The kind woman who sold them to us made sure to tie them to the girls’ wrists.

But the wind was strong enough to pull the loop off of Flora’s wrist. I don’t know how Kate didn’t lose her balloon; she must have also been holding onto the string.

Flora FLIPPED OUT. She even threatened to walk away from me, back into the store, to get herself a new balloon. She demanded I go back into the store to get her balloon.

She was heartbroken and angry. At me, at the wind, at herself for not holding on tight enough.

She sobbed as we drove home (she did not walk away from me, and she did get into the car. Kate broke into tears as Flora carried on, and I wonder if that had a sobering effect on her. Seeing her sister in distress over her distress.)

And then Flora said, “I wish the angels could bring my balloon back to me, but angels don’t exist!” Cue fresh onslaught of tears.

I got sad, almost as abruptly as my 6-year-old. (I didn’t, however, burst into tears.) I firmly believe in angels, having felt like I gave birth to one more than 8 years ago, and for her faith in angels to be gone already just made me suddenly ache.

I think it being the day before the 10th anniversary of 9/11 also made the moment more poignant for me. The weight of all those angels in my mind.


When Unca S heard the Saga of the Purple Balloon, he left his sister’s house (my MIL’s), drove to the store, and picked out three balloons: purple, pink, and blue. He delivered them to our door. Flora cheered up immensely, immediately.

Maybe the gesture, such an unexpected kindness, will renew her faith in angels. If not of the heavenly sort, then of those here with us every day.