It is tradition on Valentine's day around here that there is See's chocolate and helium filled balloons. In fact, it has become such a tradition that Daughter Number One has been talking about it all week, wondering what kind of balloon her daddy is going to get her. So when I showed up with a pink heart balloon she beamed with a radiant joy that could melt a Yeti's scowl. (Son Number Three got a monkey 'be mine' balloon but that's not important right now.) She showed it off to the rest of the family, drew little hearts and flowers on it, and took it everywhere with her for the rest of the morning. Then I'm upstairs watching the Olympics and I hear her little voice say, "I'm going to go outside with it!" Yes, the astute of you know what's about to happen and so did I.
I hear the door open. I hear laughter so joyous you could see the skip in her step with your mind's eye. Then, exactly .03 seconds later, I hear a wailing scream of the most heart wrenching magnitude in all of human history. It is long and drawn out and soul crushing, followed by heaving sobs and the plaintive words of ultimate loss, "My balloon!" The door closes. There is crying and more mournful wailing. It gets slowly louder as she comes up the stairs. I meet her on the landing and she falls into my arms. "I lost your balloon," she says between sobs. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry, Daddy, I lost your balloon. I tied it twice but it slipped off. I'm sorry, Daddy, I'm so sorry."
I pat her head and rock her back and forth a little. I tell her I love her, I'll always love her, and I'll never not love her.
Then we go to the dollar store and get another balloon.