I was sprawled, slug-like, on the couch, body aching with tiredness. I wanted nothing more than to close my eyes – even if just for ten minutes.
“Mommy?” Tori asked, patting my face. “Mommy, can we go see the balloons now?”
Inwardly, I groaned. We had promised to take her to the hot air balloon festival, but it was the last thing I felt like doing.
“Soon, honey. Go see if your daddy’s ready to go.” I was sure he wasn’t.
She skipped off. “Daddy? Daaaa-ddddy. Are you ready to go?”
Her voice faded and my eyes closed again. Seconds later, a small hand patted my cheek again.
“He’s ready, mommy! We can go!”
Of course he was. Pasting a (very fake) smile on my face, I opened my eyes. “Awesome. Let’s go! Where’s your shoes?”
A short while later we piled in the car and got on our way.
By all rights, the evening should have been a disaster. We started with a tired, grouchy mom recovering from a stomach bug, a starving dad, and sat in a half-hour long traffic jam trying to get in. Once we got there, we discovered there were only three food vendors available. And worse yet, there were no balloons in sight. Not one.
But you know what? It wasn’t. It was actually kind of awesome.
Although there were only three vendors, we didn’t have to wait long. And the food? Was greasy and delicious. We gobbled up our sandwiches (pork tenderloin for him, fish for me, bits of both for Tori) from a shaded spot on the grass while listening to some slightly off-key local band.
Then we wandered the grounds, grabbed a free frisbee for Tori, and set her loose to run with a pack of kids. She giggled and grinned, and her good mood was infectious.
Before long, the balloonists began unfurling their precious cargo, and the real fun began.
The first balloon came to life before our eyes.
As it did, small children darted in to touch it, then ran back, squealing as the wind flopped it over. Then they stood back and watched in wonder as it launched into the sky.
Soon, other balloons came to life. There was a scarecrow, a dragon, and rainbow-hued balloons of all sorts. Their operators made sure they remained tethered to the ground, and as dusk fell, we were surrounded by dancing, roaring, glowing balloons.
The look on Tori’s face was pure magic.
And just when she thought it couldn’t get any better, the stage came to life and a band began to play. She looked at us with a silent question in her eyes.
“Go ahead, sweetie. Go dance,” I said, and she took off for the stage. Then she and a group of other hyperactive kids up way past their bedtimes danced and pranced and twirled their hearts out.
All too soon it was time to go.
As I buckled her into her car seat, Tori grabbed my hair and asked, “Can we do this again tomorrow?”
I kissed her forehead and said “no, sweetie, it’s over for the year. But maybe next year.”
“Okay,” she said. “What about ice cream? Can we go get ice cream now?”
We did. And it was delicious.
It was the perfect end to a perfect summer night.