It all started when a lion walked past our window. A lion with balloons no less.
The whole family had decamped to Pizza Express on Sunday lunchtime to refuel our three intrepid and rather pink cheeked veterans of the Leeds 10k and as we finished demolishing pasta and pizza all around, Elma and her Grandad went outside for a breath of fresh air and a bit of lion spotting.
Happily the lion turned out to be very friendly, as balloon carrying lions promoting home stores rather tend to be, and Miss E was soon the happy if slightly bemused owner of a bright blue balloon. By the time Kitty had finished a ginormous ice cream sundae our friendly lion had given away all of his balloons so she and Elma shared, if by shared we mean that Elma handed it over to Kitty and Kitty immediately claimed full time custody.
She loved it. It was blue, it had writing on it, and it floated. Well at least until Mummy and Daddy had a little chat about why we do not let balloons wander around the car while Daddy is driving, and then it sat very nicely with her all the way to her aunt and uncle’s house. In fact, she loved it so much that it had to come out of the car to play with her while Daddy had a quick post-race shower.
And there the story of our blue balloon ends; because the blue balloon just wanted to be free, and through some extraordinary balloon wriggling it escaped the confines of its ribbon and floated off into the ether above West Yorkshire.
Cue one very sad little girl, and a promise. A promise that by the time she got home from nursery the next day there would be a blue balloon on her bedroom door.
“And a pink one for [Elma]?” asked my opportunist daughter.
“And a pink one for [Elma]” we promised.
It’s sometimes a hard balance to strike isn’t it; between preserving the magic of childhood and letting our children know about the realities of the world around them in all its kaleidoscope of good and bad. I want them to know enough to be able to be safe; little things at this age like why we don’t wander off, and why Mummy gets cross if you wriggle out of your car seat straps while we’re still driving; but I also want to protect their imagination and dreams, to have them still consider a little bit of magic as a distinct possibility for as long as they want.
And I love a little innocent conjuring to fulfil a promise.
So I could tell you that after H and I had our oh so romantic date to IKEA for more bookcases on Monday we made a detour to Hobbycraft and that we’re now the proud owners of a small canister of helium and stary balloons in all the colours of the rainbow (and pink), but that’s just too fantastical, far too far fetched to be in any way believable.
So I’ll tell you the truth. The truth that when the girls got home from nursery and Kitty went upstairs you could hear the squeal of delight from all over the house (and possibly all over the village), and that she played with her balloon from that moment until supper, tied it to H’s flip-flops as a balloon weight to stop it disappearing, wanted it sat right next to the head of her bed before she’d cuddle down and go to sleep, and told me in great confidence that after her first balloon went to ‘Spaceman Chris’ (she’s really very keen on Chris Hadfield’s videos from the ISS), the balloon fairy brought her a new one with stars on it.
Now that’s how the world should work.