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Dying balloons and other domestic debris

Alex Miller

Balloons are dying. In our house, they are. They are either lying on their side, forlorn and forgotten, if they were parent-inflated. If it was helium, they are now flying under the radar, hovering just a few inches off the carpet. Those mylar ones can exist in this state for months. Like the undead, they are neither alive nor fully terminal.Every dying balloon and bit of streamer or crepe paper still stuck to a wall or ceiling has a story behind it. It was from this birthday or that, from a past holiday or a homecoming. The balloons retain a simulacrum of cheer, even in their reduced state. Like a former heavyweight aging at the bar and telling anyone who’ll listen about his glory days, the balloons hang around, desperate to be recognized and revered once again.Their prime time seems to be the pre-dawn and early morning hours, which also happens to be, unfortunately, my time. This is when the death-knell dirigibles move out of the perimeter and into the hallways, the center of the living room, the middle of the kitchen floor. During the day, the normal flow of traffic pushes them into the corners, much like old wiper blades and chunks of truck tire end up on the shoulder of the 405. But when the kids go down for the night, out they come, and they’re there in the morning to greet me. Their silent suffering and creepy presence is enough to unnerve me even when I tell myself, hey, it’s only a balloon.Time was, I accepted the balloons in their reduced state the way societies tolerate tribal elders. But lately, I’ve begun practicing euthanasia on them. When no kids are around to complain or mourn, I take a pair of scissors and do a quick, surgical cut right at the base, where it’s tied. I then lay the balloon gently in the trash and watch it slowly deflate. Because many of them have been inflated for so long, the material is stretched to where they won’t entirely deflate on their own. So I have to give them a little help, tenderly pushing the remaining air out, helping it on its way to a better place. Like they do in Sweden.The dawn balloons are not alone in our home. Like any house with kids, ours is often a jumble of set-aside toys, blankets, pillows, school papers, clothing, shoes and the like. At about 5:45 a.m., it looks like a busy life scene that was suddenly interrupted-by a neutron bomb, the rapture, whatever. The balloons float above the fray-even if it’s only by a few inches-and emanate a sort of superiority: the manor house butler looking askance at the stablehand.In the pre-dawn hours, I look at this messy collection of family life and shrug a contended shrug. Although clutter has always been a pet peeve, I also know there will be a day when the house is all ship-shape, no kids mucking it all up, the only sound a clock ticking in the kitchen, perhaps. At that point I’ll be a grandparent, yearning for the days when my own kids were small – or for the next visit from the grandkids.For now, I simply enjoy the domestic debris as evidence of life being fully lived and enjoyed. When the youngest boy tears around the house, hair afire and depositing toys as he goes like one of those CDOT cone trucks, the instinct to carp is strong. Most of the time, though, I remain silent and just smile.It won’t last forever.Alex Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 615, or amiller@vaildaily.com.Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado


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