Hey, Mr. Balloon man…

Balloon man

Having posted the photo of my mother taken in 1917 or so, it’s not totally out of place to insert this one here. I’ve Photoshopped it for the sepia look, because the color of the original makes it obvious that it’s not a true period photo. It’s actually me at 17 (June, 1958) with the balloons. The occasion is my grandmother Josephine Strong’s 75th birthday celebration, in honor of which her siblings, children and grandchildren (and friends) dressed up in period clothing. My brother Walt and I found “bathing costumes,” lacking somewhat in originality but we ended up being the most comfortable people there.

The most notable thing, I think, was the excess involved in the balloon thing. For the afternoon event, we inflated balloons starting in the morning and continuing on through noon; my fingers were raw from tying the ends of the balloons. We were staging the balloons in the bunk house, and the strings hung down from the balloons forming a room-sized fringe. I think the point was that we had been given a whole great tank of helium and ‘way too many balloons and we just didn’t know when to quit.

We all have in our mind’s eye that picture of a balloon man with a fistful of strings attached to his wares, and in our mind’s eye that cloud of balloons above him is full, robust, and shaped not unlike a fat bush. Trust me, that fullness is not easily achieved. It was almost impossible to hold this group of balloons down for any lengthy period of time, and the tangling of the strings suggested that there was some secret real balloon men have not shared involved in being able to give to each child just the balloon they desire.

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