Sunday, April 14, 2013

"She Likes to Let Them Go"

She couldn't have been more than 5, dressed in a white t-shirt and short ruffled pink skirt, shiny black hair pulled back into a pink hair ribbon.  Her round, brown face smiled broadly, clutching her yellow balloon, which bobbed and weaved in the wind like a kickboxer.

As I waited for her mother to load her plastic bags full of groceries into the trunk and passenger seat of the car, which was driven by an older white man,  I wondered idly if this was an unmarked taxi service, whether such a thing existed in our town.  I felt a little sorry for them, I guess, making bold assumptions about where they lived, about why they didn't have a car to get to the grocery store.  I might have wondered whether the little girl was going to get the balloon into the car by herself, why her mother didn't jump to help her.

By Andrei NiemimÀki from Turku, Finland (Balloon)
[CC-BY-SA-2.0 (],
via Wikimedia Commons

They were about to climb into the back seat, leaving an opening for me to get into my own car, when suddenly: whoosh! off it went.

"Oh," I said in sympathy.  I'd seen this before, readied myself to offer some words of comfort, to support the mother as she tried to calm her child. I fully expected the little girl to cry.  Or at least to make a startled, unhappy sound, or to frown.  But she gazed up at the balloon, now careening dizzily off into the atmosphere, her round face smiling, shining, white teeth showing.  She waved to the sky, jumped a little, enough to bounce the skirt, and said, "bye BYE!"

The driver and I must have looked surprised, looking at the balloon, now easily a half mile away, and then back at the girl, because her mother confided, strangely apologetic, "she likes to let them go."

"Well, that's unusual," said the driver, putting the last bag into the passenger seat.

"Wow, look at it go," I said, impressed at the speed of the balloon in the wind.

"Where is it?" asked the mother.  I pointed to the yellow speck in the sky.  She shook her head, smiling, and closed the door behind her as she ducked into the back seat.

The little girl pressed her face to the car window now, still smiling, as it pulled away.

She likes to let them go, I thought.  What a useful thing to learn as a five year old, isn't it?  To know how to let go of the beautiful things, the things you love, and let them fly free, wherever the wind will take them.  To let go of the difficult things, the things that want to go somewhere else, the things that are really just a burden, or that will tie you down if you have to hold onto them.  The things that don't last.  The yellow balloons of the world.

My children got balloons at the ice cream parlor tonight.  I looped one around my daughter's wrist, advising her to "be careful with it, now, hang on tight."  I watched her play with it, wiggling it around with delight -- "look! the balloon is dancing!" she told us -- and knew that I shouldn't have said anything at all.  That maybe the balloon would fly away, or pop, and she'd be upset.  Maybe more upset because I told her to be careful with it.  Environmental and emotional considerations of flown balloons aside, maybe it's not too early to help her learn, too, to let go sometimes, or at least to not fear the letting go, to know that almost everything is ephemeral, except the beautiful things we can't touch anyway.  That there are some things we simply can't -- or shouldn't -- hold onto.  Maybe we know this as children, and it's only as adults that we begin to fear the separation.  Maybe we know too much.

Or maybe we forget.

Do you have a hard time letting go?  How tightly do you hold on to your yellow balloon?

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  1. Oh, that's lovely. What a wise little girl. And so beautifully put by you.

  2. I have chills and feel a little speechless after reading this beautiful post. We are all so much better for the letting go, right? So much better.

  3. I love this J! So much here to chew on and ironic as in two days my family and I will be letting go of five balloons at the cemetery in honor and memory of our Molly on the fifth anniversary of her birth and death.

    I do have a hard time letting go, most of the time.

    As for balloons, it depends. Also, ever since I learned about the environmental concerns related to releasing balloons I have felt bit bad about our tradition, but am not ready to let go of that either.

  4. Ohhh, this is a very beautiful post. I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night with a concern that I just can't shake. "I wish I hadn't said THAT," or thinking about some task left undone. Let GO, I think. And I do, indeed, visualize letting it go. Like a bubble off the tip of my blue plastic circle wand. Like a balloon rising off my open hand. Let it GO!

    Of course, I am only partially successful with this. May we all learn from the wee one.

  5. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful post!

    We let a yellow balloon go in honor of the baby we lost to miscarriage and this really hit home.

    My miscarriage has been something I've had a hard time letting go of. I might just start thinking of this post and the little girl next time I need to let something go :)

  6. I read this on my phone when you first posted it and thought it exquisite.

    Reading again, after yesterday's events, it's even more poignant.


  7. Letting go...oh so difficult. I think I might start visualizing the yellow balloon. Maybe letting go of something "real" might make the letting go of ideas and concerns easier.

  8. Beautiful and something I hope to pass onto my little one.

    I also liked that the photo was taken in Finland. *grin*

  9. This is a beautiful post.
    I don't know how good I am about "letting go," but I do know for at least the last 5 years or so, I've become more aware of the temporariness of everything. I try to live in the moment and not "wish away" my time because of stress or some other nasty thing. Being initiated into the Waiting Club of IF means I have to pay even more attention to this - not despising or throwing away the time Mr. Turtle and I have right now, even without the children we want.

  10. Gorgeous, Justine. I think we can all learn from the little girl and your interpretation of letting go.

  11. Here from the Roundup & I absolutely love this post. Thank you for writing it & thank you for making me think.


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