The Heart of a Child is a Balloon



“There are times in life when people must know when not to let go. Balloons are designed to teach small children this.” ― Terry Pratchett



When I was a child,

balloons fascinated me.

Whenever I spotted a balloon vendor in the park,

my heart would inflate and float,

bouncing up and down inside of me,

and had it not been enclosed within a cage of ribs,

it would have floated away to join the bobbing balloons,

straining at their strings,

eager to escape into the blue sky above,

which beckoned with promises of freedom.

My small hand,

tied by fingers to the hand of an adult,

would gently pull as my body ran ahead,

but adults are weighty things,

lead balloons,

too heavy to fly,

too cumbersome to move,

too slow to keep up with the heart of a child,

that buoyant balloon.

The first time I was given a balloon,

I let it go,

I set it free,

watched it fly up high,

to touch the clouds I longed to touch,

to dance and play with the wind,

to disappear into the blue,

in search of kingdoms far and yonder,

places I would like to see,

it would find them for me.

The second time I was given a balloon,

its string was tied around my wrist,

so tight it left a mark,

my hand turned purple,


as I tugged at the knot,

tried to loosen the string,

to let my blood flow free again,

to feel my hand again,

which had grown cold and numb,

an adult voice admonished me,

in anger and in fear,

for balloons were not allowed to fly free,

and if I could not be trusted,

to hang on for dear life,

and not let go,

then it would be tied tightly to me.

That balloon came home,

with me that day,

and in my room I set it free,

I cut the string,

watched it float up,

then hit its head on the ceiling,


I lay on my bed,

staring at the trapped balloon,


where it would have gone had it been free,

it watched me too,

from up above,

and what it saw was heavy and weary,

sinking into sleep.

Morning came with open eyes,

which searched the ceiling,

the flat white sky,

but emptiness replied.

My heart leaped,

out of bed,

with joy and wonder,

the balloon had gotten free!

then sadness gripped my buoyant heart,

tugged on its string,

pulled it down,

to the carpeted ground,

upon which lay,

a deflated balloon.

The third time I was given a balloon…





“Let go or be dragged.” – Zen proverb