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I know you will forgive my bittersweet account of events leading up to the annual celebration of Mother’s Day in our household.
I’ve made reasonable progress on the road to recovery. Even as we speak my wife is not fully aware of the gravity of events outside the supermarket the evening before the holiday. To this hour she has no inkling of my diversified agonies in the parking lot in pursuit of our annual Mother’s Day balloon.
Since I know you are discreet, I can entrust them to you. We need to be adult about this. Saturdays in the gloaming are no time to be shopping for Mother’s Day. Most of the scenario I had taken care of: gifts, hilarious greeting cards; amorous greeting cards; geraniums and the rest.
The balloon was left.
Balloons as any expression of light-hearted joy fall into a different category from the loopy greeting cards we dangle from overhanging light fixtures. Balloons are easy to love and require no translations or rhyming couplets. It happened that I was late locating a balloon that would delight my wife without ravaging my budget. So late Saturday afternoon I stalked all available shops and supermarket flower bins within range of our house. I was getting blanked and bogged down in the middle of 150 flower pots until I found a free standing balloon with springy colors of light blues and yellows and turquoise, soaring nearly six feet in height .
The checkout wasn’t far from my car. Together with a few other goods I held the balloon by its light plastic cord and walked into the late afternoon gloaming toward my car in one of those long parking strips. With the other hand I reached for the door handle, programmed to open automatically within range of the door key.
By then the light wind of an hour ago had intensified into something close to a gale. And it was getting dark.
And the balloon flew out of my hand.
The wind must have been close to 20 miles an hour and swirling. I dashed after the air borne balloon and managed to grab the cord. While I opened the car door, the balloon escaped—again.
By now at least a half dozen motorists appeared ready to enter the rescue attempt. They began calling out the balloon’s progress. Oddly it wasn’t gaining altitude but appeared to be bouncing between some of the parked cars. The parked motorists began directing my pursuit angles. At least two of them joined in the hunt.
A guy about to bundle some groceries into his car pinpointed the balloon’s flight angles. “It just disappeared behind that maroon Chevy” he said.
“Where’s the Chevy?” I yelled. He tried to be helpful. “Well, it’s next to that blue Camry.” Another guy corrected him. “It’s not blue it’s green.”
Half of the assembled shoppers were into the act trying to locate the runaway balloon while the wind boosted it. In the meantime I was going out of my gourd trying to track the Camry when somebody else yelled, “I see it skittering along near that new Ram,” he said.
That stopped me in my tracks. A new Ram. I remembered the commercials. “Guts And Glory,” I thought. “That balloon is gone.”
But it wasn’t. Unbeknown to me two guys in a jeep had been pursuing the bouncing balloon on foot, grabbed it and yelled across the widths of parking stalls: “We’ve got your balloon.”
I couldn’t see them or give them a decent vector to my location in the parking lot. One of them yelled, “We’ll see you at the firewood stack with the balloon.”
Which they did. I offered treats.
“Go home,” one of them said. “Call it a night.”
At least that.
I told my wife the story the next day. She loved the balloon. “We can’t keep it,” she said. “It belongs in the Smithsonian.”
In 45 years of daily journalism, Jim Klobuchar’s coverage ranged from presidential campaigns to a trash collector’s ball. He has written from the floor of a tent in the middle of Alaska, from helicopters, from the Alps and from the edge of a sand trap. He was invited to lunch by royalty and to a fist fight by the late Minnesota Viking football coach, Norm Van Brocklin. He wrote a popular column for the Minneapolis Star Tribune for 30 years and has authored 23 books. Retiring as a columnist in 1996, he contributes to Ecumen’s “Changing Aging” blog, MinnPost.com and the Christian Science Monitor. He’s climbed the Matterhorn in the Alps 8 times and has ridden his bike around Lake Superior. He’s also the proud father of two daughters, including Minnesota's senior U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar.