We took the family to see Sesame Street Live again yesterday. This was our second time, and Ruby’s best friend from school came with us. This worked out very well, except that this friend had brought money with her for a souvenir. That meant that we had to shell out money for stuff for our kids too, lest we look like stingy and terrible parents. Ruby got a light-up spinning Elmo device of some sort, and Edward got a giant Elmo balloon.
We tied the balloon on to my wife’s purse so that we would not lose it but, after the show, I was leaving with the kids while my wife was going out with friends, so we had to untie it. I held on very tightly to that string until we got into the car, where Ruby really really really wanted to hold it, promising to never let it go, so I said okay. She held it, we got in the car, and drove to Friendly’s. Kids eat for $1.99 on Wednesdays at Friendly’s.
When we arrived at the restaurant I warned the children not to open their doors until the car was off and I was holding onto the balloon. They obeyed and we got out of the car with no incident. Dinner. Ice cream. Happiness. Tiredness. Time to go home. When we got to the car, Ruby got in first. Edward then tried to get in on her side and climb over her, prompting shrieking, kicking, and fighting. I opened Edward’s door to try and entice him to get into it, but as I was going over to grab him, he opened Ruby’s door. She was not holding the balloon because she was trying to shove her brother out of the car, and the two open doors created a wind tunnel that sucked the balloon right out the opposite door and into the night.
Cue the wailing and gnashing of teeth. Cue the screaming and crying. Cue the apocalypse. Edward’s balloon was gone. It did have an absurdly long string, and I almost managed to grab it, but it floated out over the busy street and I tripped over the crusty snow piles in the parking lot and it was too late.
Ruby seemed far more upset about it than Edward as we drove home. She would not stop her mournful lament. Edward just kept saying things like “That wind naughty! Took my balloon! It too high now. It far away in the dark! That naughty wind!” I tried to comfort them, and said how sad it was that the balloon was gone, but that we had to accept the fact that it had flown away. That was when Edward started crying.
“I wanna hold my balloon!” he finally said, and started crying at the top of his lungs. Now both children were bellowing at top volume and I could barely drive. And that’s when it hit me. There was a second performance. It started at 7 pm. I looked at my watch. 7:32. Intermission would be at 7:45 exactly, which is when the balloons would be sold. And we were ten minutes from the theater.
Switching into NASCAR mode I changed course for the theater downtown, arriving just moments before the intermission balloon sales. As I ran into the theater I was stopped by the ticket ladies. So I explained it to them. And they were not impressed. “The balloon guy is already in the theater,” they told me, arms crossed, expressions dour.
“Okay,” I said, pausing, looking around nonchalantly before making a break for it. I ran past those two ladies and into the theater, where I found the balloon guy standing in the back, waiting for the performers to dance off the stage so that he could walk to the front and start selling giant balloons for $10 each. “I need a balloon!” I told him breathlessly. He almost argued, but instead undid his special knot that held all the balloons together and sold me one. My $20 Elmo balloon.
Boy did I feel like a good parent as I strode out of the theater holding that balloon. Having completely avoided having to teach my children a valuable lesson about life and loss, and having paid twice as much money for a stupid balloon I never wanted to buy in the first place, it was nonetheless worth it as I saw my children’s faces as I walked back to the car with the precious. And now we will have to see who will pop it first, the children, or the cats.