Being the youngest in a family of eight didn't leave much time...or funding for extravagant birthday parties that included balloons, hats or goody bags. We had the usual birthday cake from a box, cand...
Being the youngest in a family of eight didn't leave much time...or funding for extravagant birthday parties that included balloons, hats or goody bags. We had the usual birthday cake from a box, candles and the "Happy Birthday Song," and finances permitting - we received gifts from our parents.
I recall one birthday that my father wasn't home. An Army Sergeant, he spent many weeks on end in "the fields" or drill for his particular duty station. Upon his return, he brought me a very large cardboard box. It wasn't wrapped, a little warped, and most of the flaps were open. As a wide-eyed 6-year old, I was of course, intrigued by the contents. Pulling back one of the flaps, I peered down inside the container. The base of the box was lined with tiny, used plastic toy soldiers, a few matchbox cars, some lego blocks and a Batman car that traditionally shot "missiles." However, since the missiles were missing, we accessorized the little, black vehicle with toothpicks - which worked quite well.
We didn't have a lot of money for a lot of things, but the big, cardboard container with used toys seems to linger in my timebox of precious memories. As a matter of fact, the miscellaneous odds and ends were the perfect gifts for an inquisitive blond-curled tomboy.
As we all matured, my sisters and I proceeded having our own families. One of our primary goals was to give our children ALL the things we didn't have or couldn't afford. And as much material things I personally gave my children, I still wanted to incorporate a "special" memory timebox that they, too, may retain in years to come.
I made certain that both my children had 'real' birthday parties - hats, goody bags, the whole works. But what made their special day - 'special,' was the flying of the balloons. So what's so unique about letting balloons go into the air? From the time my children were able to write with crayons, I would purchase small 3x5 ruled, index cards, plastic ziplock baggies, ribbon and helium balloons on their birthdays. Depending on how old they were turning, was how many helium balloons I would buy. I began first by having them write a small note, "Dear Friend, my name is ..., and I am hoping that my little balloon will find its way to you. If you find my note, please write me at...., God Bless You, ...." After writing their note, name and address, we would meticulously slip the 3x5 card into a ziplock baggie, seal it and attach a separate note to each balloon. At the 'end' of their birthday party, my kids would excitedly run outside to lift off their balloons. One at a time, we would watch red, blue, green, yellow, purple and orange balloons spiral into the vast, open sky.
Throughout the years, up until their 12th birthdays, we would fly the balloons to signify their special days. Additionally, we knew that although modern technology allows us to instantly communicate, that perhaps, just one of the balloons would make it into someone else's hands. One year after my son's 9th birthday, he received a letter from a teenage girl that lived in a neighboring state. The hand-written envelope was addressed to my son, and came from North Carolina. As he carefully opened the sealed envelope, I knew that this was a response from one of his balloons. Sure enough, the letter explained how the little balloon had made its way into a farm field over 400 miles away. The teenage girl wrote how her father, a farmer, had been ploughing his wheat fields when he stumbled upon a red balloon with a little note attached to it. Amazed at his finding, he brought it home to his 17-year old daughter who quickly responded to my son.
For years, my kids would anxiously await more responses. Although we didn't get a response for every balloon we sent, somehow, I know that another individual will one day stumble upon one of their little notes from the past. And perhaps, one day, they will receive yet another response.
It is my belief that the simple things we do, give and say are the happiest and most treasured moments of our lives. My teenage kids often remark about the balloon flights and still hold those times dear to their hearts. In essence, they now have their own memory timebox, as I will always have mine.