Pink Balloons

On my morning walk, I passed a certain house and remembered a short story I’d written Memorial Day weekend, 2020. I’m sharing this now, as a reminder about pool safety. 

Backing out of my driveway, I noticed a sunshine yellow fire truck rounding the cul-de-sac. Could be a heart attack or stroke. Nearing the end of my street, I encountered at least ten police cars and news media invading the area.Yellow tape. Looks more like a crime scene. Maybe a murder, or suicide, or murder-suicide. 

Reports of depression and crime had escalated as lives were disrupted by unemployment, loneliness, sickness, and death due to COVID-19. 

Yet on Memorial Day weekend, parties erupted as if the pandemic was merely a bad dream. 

I was taking my Shih Tzu, Millie, for a drive that afternoon to alleviate our restlessness from three months of isolation. On returning home, I flipped through the local news channels. My heart fell, hearing a three-year old girl had fallen into a swimming pool and drowned, in my neighborhood. The weight of this tragedy was impossible to shake. 

I made salad for dinner but didn’t have much of an appetite, missing my own precious grandchildren. Wanting them safe by my side.

Rocketman on Prime kept my mind occupied for a while. And later, carousing next-door neighbors were so loud I couldn’t sleep. With a queasy stomach, I finally drifted off sometime after midnight. 

The morning came, as it does every day, but my sorrow hadn’t lifted. I strapped on shoes and headed out for a walk when a memory rattled me. Two days prior, I’d walked at a nearby park, snapping photographs of nature and misplaced objects. Strewn several yards apart near the bank of a man-made lake, my camera captured a small pink mitten, one small sparkly pink sandal, and a Little Mermaid beach towel. These findings left me with an uneasy feeling, wondering how the items were lost and if they’d been missed. Had I taken a different route that morning, or walked at a different time of day, I might not have noticed them. The impression weighed on me so much I returned home and journaled about it—my way of unloading.  

My walk this morning was longer than usual, and it was a relief to turn the corner into my development. Nearing my street, I looked up and saw one pink Mylar balloon with a silver ribbon floating high above the houses. Coincidence? Maybe. But then, another pink balloon trailed the first, and three more after that. I broke down, feeling connected to the little girl whose life was cut short, and I grieved for her though I’d never known her.  

Hearing of these tragedies from time to time, my heart breaks. But this was different. Maybe it’s too close to home, or because I’m a grandmother. Either way, I’m holding my grandbabies close and appreciating every second. I pray for the family, one street over, that can no longer do that. 

We’re all responsible for vigilance around water. Parents love and care for their children the best they can. But eyes diverted for just a few seconds can change their lives forever.

Author: Leslie J. Cox

Leslie Cox is a writer of creative non-fiction, focusing on personal essay and memoir. Her essay “My Favorite Chair” was a runner up in the WOW! Women on Writing Q1 2020 Creative Nonfiction Contest, and she published two essays in “Her Vase” in 2020. Her essay "Distracted" appeared in the Pure Slush anthology: "Love, Lifespan," and she has enjoyed contributing to guest blogs and book reviews. Prior to semi-retiring from health care administration in 2019, Leslie wrote and published trade articles and a guidebook for health care professionals for HCPro. When she’s not writing, Leslie tutors students K-12 in the craft of writing, and that fills her up!

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