Few things make this middle aged butt pucker anymore. I’m not talking “Ooh that’s a scary roller coaster, don’t make me ride!” No, I’m talking ass-in-your-throat-with-a-side-of-vertigo kind of panic. The earliest memory I have of this feeling was in 3rd grade. There was a reading contest at school. The classes that reached the goal got to release balloons outside. There were a lot of great readers, and a lot of balloons. Environmentalists today would probably shudder, but hey, this was the 80’s, back when there was still plenty of mileage left on good ol’ Mother Earth. Or so they thought.
My class logged many reading hours, thanks to Beverly Cleary and Roald Dahl. As I let go of my well-earned balloon, I watched it float above my head, then the playground, then the school. At that point, an electrifying shock went through my body. I panicked quietly, I felt as if I had released a part of my body, my entire being. The further it went and the smaller it got, the more trepidation I felt. That day I learned that I much prefer it safely secured to my wrist, than floating along, so very alone in the vast and endless sky.
I had long forgotten this sensation, until recently. Mavis is getting older, and has begun to experiment with mini expeditions out of the proverbial nest. She can appreciate a nice frosty beverage, so one day she asked if she could walk up to the coffee shop and get a smoothie. My insides were screaming, “No!!!!”, but the time has come. She is learning to be more independent, and I am learning to have a daughter who is learning to be more independent. Whole lotta education going on in the Journey House. We went over rules and safety, and I released the balloon. Off she went, sweaty wad of dollar bills in one hand, cell phone in the other.
A few minutes after she left, a torrential downpour started. This wasn’t the drizzly spritz we get 300 days a year. This was a soak-you-to-the-bone-seek-shelter-now storm. After a few minutes there was no sign of it letting up, so I decided to set out and pick her up. When I went outside, the thunder and lightning commenced, it was right above our neighborhood. The urgency I now had in my chest, to find my little balloon!! As I drove the route, wipers swishing like mad, I scanned the streets. I was seeing everything through a new lens. It was like I was in Hogan’s Alley, assessing the threat level of every subject I passed. She hadn’t been gone that long, and the further I drove, and scanned, the more frenzied I became. I finally arrived at the coffee shop, and there was my little water-logged Mavis, hovering under the awning of the walk up window. She got her drink, and I honked and called her over. When she got in, shivering and shaking, she thanked me so much for “rescuing” her. I parked the car, gave her a huge hug, and cried some mom-tears of the greatest relief I’ve ever felt. Then she asked why I was so weird 🙂
As time passes, I am learning to take that little balloon off of my wrist and have faith that it will always float back to the nest. Eventually, it will just be to visit, or do laundry or have a home cooked meal, so I will appreciate this time, and let her go just a bit.