Last Sunday, Luca, Eli and I went to a birthday blowout. It was at the house where they give out whisky every Halloween, so I knew it was going to be fun.
There were build your own pizza stations, huge buckets of beers and juice boxes, and the guy who makes balloon animals at the Mexican restaurant.
The guy who makes balloon animals at the Mexican restaurant (TGWMBAATMR) is this awesome dreadlocked dude with silver rings on each finger and a big ice cream cone shaped thing that pumps air and a vest with at least 40 pockets for every eventuality. TGWMBAATMR could make anything. He banged out doggies and butterflies and hats that would make Carmen Miranda crap her pants. Eli tried to stump him with a fish hanging from a fishing rod, but he didn’t even break a sweat.
But since this was a 5 year old boy’s birthday party, TGWMBAATMR just made swords. After sword. After sword. With the completion of each, TGWMBAATMR would say, “Have fun, but don’t drag your sword on the ground or it will pop.” Then the child would immediately drag his sword on the ground, pop it, and take their place at the back of the line.
Finally, after several hundred swords were made and popped, the Mom announced it was cake time and TGWMBAATMR was done. He breathed a visible sign of relief and began packing up his stuff, probably anticipating an evening of delicious Margaritas and bottomless chips and guac.
While I was lurking close enough to the cake to be offered a piece without actually having to ask, I felt a tug at my leg. Luca was flushed with tears. He presented me a deformed balloon that used to be a sword. It had come undone in his latest battle.
“Oh, hey. Don’t cry. I can fix this.” I was a little giddy. I’d always wanted to be a TGWMBAATMR and part of me thought I would discover a hidden balloon talent that would make us all rich.
After some squeaky fumbling, I realized why the real TGWMBAATMR was in such demand. My balloon sword was sad and phallic and caused Luca to look at me with a mixture of horror and deep disappointment in his DNA.
I led him outside and found TGWMBAATMR finishing his packing up. Luca held out the pathetic phallus and TGWMBAATMR said, “Sorry son. I’m done.”
Little sobs came popping out of Luca’s mouth to match the giant tears streaming down his face. But TGWMBAATMR had spoken. And I was not going to argue with a guy sporting so many silver rings.
I suddenly remembered a classic Onion headline that read, “Child Who Just Lost Balloon Begins Lifelong Battle With Depression.”
I guided Luca over to the fence and said, “Hey. Hey. It’s ok. It’s just a dumb balloon. Why don’t we go to the toy store and I’ll buy you something.” Luca just kept crying.
Suddenly, TGWMBAATMR called us over. He looked me in the eye and said, “Sometimes I think, there are these times in life that change us. Things happen and you never forget it. Like, I remember when I was a kid, we’d go to circus and we couldn’t afford to sit up front. We’d have to sit in the back and I felt bad that we couldn’t sit in the front. I feel like this is one of those times for your son. So I want to make him a sword.”
I nodded solemnly.
Luca wiped away his tears and said, “Can we still go to the toy store, dad?”