The Past is Like a Red Balloon

The Past is Like a Red Balloon

The happy curtain of my childhood has drawn to a close and I feel as though it didn’t even let me catch one fleeting glimpse of me and my sisters playing in the window before shutting completely. Gone are the summer days, with dirty faces and sticky hands, licking popsicles on the front steps. Gone are the days of my little sister climbing into bed with me for a sleepover, telling me secrets, and teaching me about life in ways that only a little sister can.

As I sit here crying my eyes out, I once again realize that the more memories you have with a person, the more you have about them to miss. When I think about family, I realize that there’s love, there’s pain, there’s hurt, there’s joy, there’s confusion, there’s mistake, there’s forgiveness, there’s letting go, there’s holding on, and there’s everything in between. And at the center of all families is change. Maybe that’s what I’m so bad at being a good family member…because it’s so hard for me to accept change, even good change.  It’s so hard for me to accept the truth that we’re all going to move out one day and maybe start families of our own.  It hurts my heart to realize that there will come a day when my dad won’t kiss me on top of my head every morning, my mom won’t wave me good-bye from her office window when I leave for work, and I won’t hear my sisters singing in the shower.

I wish the world could be simple again. I wish that I could understand it better and that I wasn’t so confused. I wish that I would stop trying to keep things exactly as they are and I wish that change didn’t make me feel as though everything I love is drifting further and further away from me.

When I’m eighty years old and looking back at my life, I think these are the days that I’ll  wish I could go back to.  The  beautiful days where problems could be solved from a mother’s gentle kiss, where discovering new places was as simple as using your imagination to travel to faraway lands, and where the only burns you had were from playing in the sun for too long.  There were some pretty beautiful days, weren’t there? Dancing around in your pajamas, going to the park with your grandpa; your mom braiding your hair before school; your dad running beside you with an encouraging smile on his face as he taught you how to ride a bike, your sisters’ laughter as they threw snowballs at you; the joy of opening up of the dress-up box and becoming whomever you wanted to be….

C.S. Lewis once said that “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” Maybe he’s right or maybe that’s just his way of helping us look forward to the future. I don’t know; I just know that sometimes life forces us to say goodbye even when we’re not ready.

Over the past year or so, I’ve learned that the past is like a red balloon and I’ve been clutching on to it too tightly –  so scared and unwilling to let it go. Now I know that I have to let it go so that my hands will be free to hold on to new things that come along. I know that letting go does not mean forgetting. I will never forget my childhood. For as long as I live, it will be among my fondest memories. But now I know those days are over, and it is dangerous for me to wish we could be like that again.

May 28, 2015


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