My birthday gift this year from our adult children and their spouses was quite a surprise. They wanted to make it possible for me to cross off one of the items on my bucket list - the list you make of things you want to do before you kick the bucket.
The grandchildren were gathered on the deck and I was sitting at the dining room table with my back to the doors leading out there. The door opened behind me and a helium balloon floated past. Suspended below it by four pretty ribbons was a little brown basket. The balloon had "Happy Birthday" printed on it. Looking up as it breezed past me I asked, "Whose birthday is it?" We have so many grandchildren I feared I had forgotten one of them.
"It's yours - very soon anyway," someone answered. My birthday was about a week away and I had not given it much thought to that point. "There's a message in the basket."
The message, so cleverly delivered, was a certificate saying I was going on a hot-air balloon ride and could take a companion. I didn't get a chance to ask my companion of choice, my husband, to go with me. I read the certificate aloud, shrieked with delight, looked toward my spouse and he was already protesting. "Don't look at me. My feet are on the ground and they're staying there." I understood completely. He was not a good candidate for a ballooning adventure.
As a youngster he was standing on the platform oiling the windmill that pumped water to the farmyard. The wind caught the blade, swinging it around and nearly knocking him off the platform. That was the last time he could climb to any height. I witnessed his fear when we were touring Chicago. At the top of the Sears Tower he hugged the wall just outside the elevators while the rest of us walked over to the floor-to-ceiling windows for a bird's eye view of the city. He won't get into a glass-enclosed elevator running up the side of a building. Years ago we were painting his mother's house and he stayed on the ground while I joined his brother on the scaffolding to paint the lofty areas.
My sister, Margaret, did not hesitate when I asked her. "Oh, I would love that." We were to wait until the pilot phoned to say it was a good day for a flight. The day he phoned was a day my sister could not come - she lives a little more than an hour's drive from our home. He said that was fine, and he would call again. The next call came at nearly 8:30 one evening. He said we could go up the next morning at about 6. Wow! That was early but watching the sun rise as we floated somewhere between earth and sky was going to be a bonus.
Margaret's husband was already relaxing in his pajamas when I called them about the early morning take-off. He was a good sport, getting dressed again and driving up to spend the night. They got here about 10 and we all went right to bed so we would be awake and ready to enjoy our flight. The men planned to be chasers on the ground. They were in agreement that standing in a basket while floating through the atmosphere was not their idea of fun.
We were concerned about how to dress for the trip, not knowing if it would be colder up in the balloon or hotter than it was on the ground. My sister thought that because heat rises, it would be hotter up there. My theory was that since there is snow on mountains it must be colder up there. "We aren't going to go THAT high, are we?" she asked. We decided slacks or jeans and light jackets worn over short sleeved T-shirts would be our flight uniforms.
At four the next morning my husband woke me to say he saw flashes of lightening and heard the soft rumblings of thunder. The pilot phoned: we were grounded once again. The repeated postponements grant us that much more time to anticipate the event. The weather has been so erratic it may be another month before it happens but eventually we will go UP, UP AND AWAY. firstname.lastname@example.org