As a parent, I can’t say that there have been that many instances in my mommyhood that have been utterly surprising. Not that everything has been predictable or obvious, but I’m talking about those moments that make me stare all wide-eyed at Lorelai in complete awe/surprise/disbelief. I had one of those moments the other day, and I have to share it.
We frequent this quaint little indoor playground in our area quite often. It’s cozy, inexpensive, and the staff are all very friendly. Not to mention Lorelai absolutely loves it and we are never there for less than 2.5 hours at a time. So, we went on Tuesday, and I guess they’d had a birthday party that morning because they were cleaning one of the party rooms and handing the leftover balloons to the parents for the kids. The lady handed me a purple balloon for Lorelai. At the time, Lore was up in second level of the play area and I could hear her talking to the two little boys she was playing with. She rounded one of the corners and spotted me holding the balloon, and literally squealed and ran.
She went through the maze of that playground in no time and was standing in front of me with this look of complete kiddie-glee on her face. If you’re a parent, you know that look. It’s the same look they get when you surprise them with ice-cream (or any other sweet for that matter), when they see their presents on Christmas morning, or when you announce that you’re going to do something extra special with them. It’s a pretty awesome look. So she was so excited about that stupid purple balloon that she didn’t want to play anymore. Having only been there for about an hour, I tied it to her water bottle, told her it wouldn’t fly off, and shoo’d her back towards the playground. She happily played until it was time to go, but she would run back to bat at it for a few seconds, and then head back to the maze.
Fast forward to when we were leaving. She left with no issue. If you know my child, you know how much of a miracle that is. She never wants to leave any kind of playground, ever. Despite being nearly four years-old, she still sheds a tear. Every. Single. Time. So yeah, it was a miracle that she wasn’t crying or trying to negotiate more time to play. She clutched her water bottle and stared up at the big purple balloon and happily walked out of the play center with me holding her free hand.
By the time we got out to the parking lot, she was shaking the water bottle to make the balloon bounce. Not five seconds into that, the balloon slipped off of the bottle and floated up before I could catch it. I held my breath.
I’m going to pause again and tell you why. She’s three, and almost any mom of a spunky three year-old will know exactly why I held my breath: I was waiting for the meltdown. You see, we had been there before a couple of weeks ago when we went to Chic Fil A. They give out balloons there too and I wasn’t paying attention when I was buckling her in and her balloon flew off. I was reminded of that incident for weeks. Anyway, I was standing in that parking lot, waiting for a shrill of complete dismay from my little drama queen, especially since she loved that stupid purple balloon so much. It never came.
I looked down, ready to calm whatever storm was brewing by apologizing for not tightening the knot, but there was no storm. I looked down, and she was smiling and waving at the balloon. Before I could even get a word out, she looked back at me and said, clear as day, “It’s okay Mommy, my sister Ally can play with it.”
So I stood there in the middle of the parking lot, staring at her in complete awe, my mouth hanging open and no doubt looking ridiculous, wondering if she had really just said that. You see, Alessandra isn’t talked about overmuch in our house… Not that there’s any specific reason as to why, just that we mostly focus on the future and she just doesn’t come up. Aside from a “family” talk we had back in the spring, I think the last time we talked to Lorelai about Alessandra was last November when we did our annual balloon release for her.
Why Lorelai thought of that when the balloon escaped this time, and not the last, is beyond me. I just know that it was incredibly sweet and made me feel such peace. I wasn’t expecting her to remember the balloon release or what we told her, that the balloons would go up to Heaven where Ally was, and she would be able to play with them. (What else would you tell a 3-year-old?)
I just love that she, at such a young age, had forgone her normal reaction for a much more complacent and thoughtful one. When that balloon floated off, there were no tears, no accusing Mommy of not tightening the knot enough, or accidentally letting it go… it was for her big sister. She immediately pegged it as sharing, and passed it on to somebody with whom she never got to meet, but loved anyway.
I couldn’t be more grateful for that not-so-stupid purple balloon.