There are two things in this world that kids certainly don’t know a damned thing about; Shakespearian allegory, and the physical properties of most common gases. Any and every K12 teacher will attest to this.
They are also blissfully unaware of the poignantly poetic connection between the two. And just as well; such sobering and irrefutable philosophic evidence should well be kept from them, easily until the seventh grade, if not even beyond that. Let ’em be kids for as long as they can, I say; a rose will still be a rose, regardless of when we each get around to actually contemplating them, whatever they’re being called by.
And as to helium and carbon monoxide, I keep a particularly fond childhood memory; kept in my file for ” particularly fond childhood memories”, located just behind my left ear, near the hairline ( or what was once known as such. ) It’s either that, or a hopefully benign nodule. I just know that if I poke at it long enough, it will release a flood of pleasant early recollections. There is also a corresponding file behind my right ear which I have long since learned to avoid at all cost. And, there’s one forming right smack in the middle of my forehead, indicating a possible new career as a Hindu mystic; in which case I will certainly need a set of proper lily-white pajamas. The old green plaid ones will not do, I suppose…but apparently I digress.
Right. Back to the childhood memory file.
This wonderful warm-and-fuzzy collection includes early TV shows ( Bonanza, Rawhide, the Addams Family ( I still count Mrs. Addams as being the very first Goth female ); seeing the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show, at which point life as I had known it took a sudden left turn; sandlot baseball, and the smell of the six gallons of saddle soap that my glove was marinated in; the brown woolen snowsuit that Mom would stuff me into, and then throw me into a snowbank to await the Spring thaw; sledding, until it was too dark to be able to see the tree you were about to crash into; wars of attrition, otherwise known as snowball fights; catching fireflies in jars on hot summer nights; Joyce Stamp ( my first actual taking notice of a female ) in the third grade ( alas, we could not marry; I was Catholic, and she was Protestant ( neither had any idea what that actually meant ); the inexplicably satisfying sound of baseball cards that have been clothes-pinned onto bicycle spokes; the wonderful rubber-ish ‘ thwock’ sound you make when you flick a balloon back into the air ( because it must remain airborne at all costs ).
This last one needs further explanation; because many balloons are in fact airborne, and need tethering, lest they escape our grasp altogether. And yet many do not. This posits quite the physics problem for children the world over, wherever a balloon is to be had.
To the child, it may seem a simple enough solution. The store-bought balloon always manages its escape into the atmosphere; therefore, get your own balloons, blow them up with your own air, and …voila.
Nothing. Just the opposite, in fact. But…air is air…a rose is a rose… balloons are balloons. Why isn’t this working?
It is precisely then that the balloon-thwocking starts. At the risk of life, limb, the pursuit of happiness…liberty will certainly be compromised. After all, your little sister went careening out a second-story window, and was only saved by landing in your mother’s prize rosebushes; you will consequently be grounded until the ripe old age of eight. Potted geraniums ended up in aquarium tanks; chairs broken, drapes pulled down, dogs and cats trod upon. All because it is entirely possible to blow up the entire package of balloons, and keep them all airborne at the same time…at all costs. This feat requires much, much thwocking, several children…and a mother who is slightly and temporarily preoccupied.
She may be preparing dinner…or seeing to an outside chore…or on the phone…again.
The phone calls seem to go on forever. It feels like you were five when she started, and now you’re…well..still five, but it seems like seven. And a lot can happen in even a relative two years time, when there are balloons afoot. When you’re not getting the attention you want/need; when there are no snacks within reach; when there’ s no feedback.
And finally…the balloons have begun to lose pressure. The thwocking becomes tiresome…and still…in exasperation, you bring her an expiring, wheezing, thoroughly thwocked- out balloon, and ask her for help. To make them better, to bring them back…that’s what she does. Her Prime Directive…to fix stuff.
But she is still on the phone.
So, as your last resort, you try the old standby method; whining piteously. It works a good percentage of the time. But this time, her response is stoic, and unmoving in its harsh implication. Apparently… air is not always just air, but a rose is always a rose; sisters don’t always land in beds of roses…but a dead balloon is always, always a dead balloon.
And in spite of the lesson supposedly learned, the next balloon- based project didn’t fare much better; fashion a parachute from a large bath towel and pieces of clothesline ( yes, you must chop up your mother’s clothesline first, and poke holes into monogrammed bath towels ); blow up 12 new balloons, attach string to each; climb the old apple tree to the highest reachable limb; and use the wonders of science to float safely to the ground. Or maybe, if you can catch the wind just right, to sail over the chain link fence into uncharted territory.