I went to dinner tonight. I had a burger, if you're curious, the kind that is really good but if you don't eat fast enough the bun and the paper it's wrapped in get all soggy and gross. Inside the restaurant there were balloons and a person dressed as a bird entertaining children (and Mr. J, for that matter). Leaving the burger restaurant, Mr. J and I observed a little girl letting her balloon go. "Bye bye, balloon," she called as she watched it drift slowly upward. "Bye bye, balloon," her family solemnly stated.
We talked about this in the car on the way home. I was remembering the various incidents of children becoming upset at the loss of a balloon that I have witnessed; incidents where parents encourage the unreasoning attachment to a balloon by replacing it. I am saddened, on probably a deeper level than I really should be, at the gross attachment to something so insignificant; I wonder if this is a mentality that persists throughout a person's entire life and helps shape an unwillingness to let go. We seem to be afraid of so many things associated with 'letting go': we are afraid of death and sickness and disease; of change; of personal loss.
I think of my own lessons in balloon-loss that I learned as a child; I remember my mom telling me that some balloons just have to get lost, that all the fun I just had with my balloon was still just as fun. I couldn't keep the balloon forever, anyway, so why not just let it go. No, we couldn't drive really fast and catch up to it. I never got a replacement balloon, and I learned about carrying on with my life without it. I never realized about that lesson until tonight, when I witnessed someone else learning it.
I've had a lot of balloons drift in and out of my life, and I've mourned them all when they leave. But they don't get replaced; no matter how badly we want to replace the things we lose, the best we can do is carry on with whatever joy we gained from them and learn to enjoy the next thing that comes our way with as much passion as we enjoyed the last thing.
I still have some attachments that could use some letting go of; it's so clear to me when it's a balloon in a child's hands.
Bye bye, indeed.