The Present of Presence

To celebrate the kids’ performance in The Nutcracker, we got them a giant balloon. It was red and covered with explosions of white hearts. I mean giant. It barely fit in the back seat of the car. The kids were delighted to see such a monstrosity of helium for their performance. However, we realized we would be traveling the next day and couldn’t bring the balloon with us. When we came back it would be deflated, so we decided to surprise someone with it – someone we knew who could use some cheering up as they weren’t feeling well.

The next day we carefully nudged the giant balloon into the car and drove over to their house. My child in the backseat talked to the balloon saying how glad it would make someone very soon. We parked under a tree at the balloon recipient’s house and began the 5-10 minute gentle negotiation to get the balloon out of the car. The front seat had to be moved but that didn’t get it out. The front seat had to have its top laid forward as well. One of the kids had to get in and push it from the other side. Everyone had to stop a minute and talk through their next steps to make sure we were all moving in the right direction.

Finally, we got the balloon out. And then BANG! We hit the sidewalk as the balloon exploded, sounding like a gunshot, with red ribbons of rubber raining down on the car.

It turned out that parking underneath a pine tree is not a good idea for any balloon.

The kids didn’t know what to do. We lost the balloon. What was the point of visiting this person now? How would the ruins of a once mighty heart balloon cheer them up?

I visited them anyway. Instead of the balloon to cheer them up, I had the story. Of The Nutcracker, of the difficulty getting the balloon in and out four times, only to have it burst fantastically in their front yard. We had a good laugh about it, and they were cheered up.

The spirit of the holiday season is never about presents. We may think this way as a kid, but as we mature we realize that the spirit is the meaning behind the presents. The thoughtfulness put into it, the desire to give in hopes that someone else will be happy. And even if all of our plans go awry, we still have the gift of our presence. Which includes the ability to laugh through misfortune together while putting the hefty remains of one great ballon in the trash bin.