Friday, December 5, 2008

The Red Balloon

Recently, while sitting in a dark theater, waiting for The Secret Life of Bees to start, I watched the movie trailer of Pixar's movie UP . Watching the balloons raise the old man's house and carry him away, reminded me instantly of The Red Balloon. Did you ever watch it as a kid?

I did.

I loved movie day at school. My heart would jump out of my skin with excitement whenever the teacher rolled in the movie projector. I would quietly and slowly inch my desk to the right or the left so I wouldn't see a single silhouette of a head sitting in front of the screen to block my view.

I think I watched The Red Balloon in the second grade and then maybe again in the third grade and perhaps again in the fourth grade. It was an old film... made in the 1950s but it felt it was much older than even that.

If you haven't seen it, the movie is about a
cherry-red helium balloon who loves a young school boy. It follows him to school and waits for him until school is out and follows him home again. They are best of friends.

And what third grader can't relate to friending a balloon or a stick-horse or even a security blanket for that matter.

The red balloon is so adorable, it's like your favorite puppy. And then one day, a bunch of bullies ganged up on it, pelting rocks at it ... and .... eventually popping it.

yeah. Popping it.

I have to admit that for me, the slow, sweaty deflating death of the read balloon was absolutely gut-wrenching. My eyes swimming with tears would spill out and down my cheeks and it would embarrass me sitting there at my desk in school. I instantly wanted to run home and hug my mom. And my dogs and cats. And my dolls. And my bike.

I'm quite sure that is the reason even today, I feel sad when a light bulb burns out. Or when the Christmas Tree who once stood so tall and green, adorned with such beautiful decorations is now laying naked on the curb waiting to be carried off to its final resting place.

I blame it all on the red balloon.

That young boy who played the leading role and who is now a much older adult was being interviewed on NPR radio last year and he said he genuinely believed during filming that the red balloon was alive. He said, "The Red Balloon was my friend." The guy interviewing him asked him, "When you were filming it, did you really feel that way?" And he responded, "Yes, yes, he was a real character with a spirit all his own."

You might find this funny, but I believe him.
I believe in the red balloon.

I just might create a bumper sticker with that on it.

Oh. By the way.

At the end of the movie, (
as best as I remember it) all the balloons in Paris escape children's little hands and balloon stores to scoop up that young grieving boy and carry him somewhere.

Somewhere I never knew.

I think that was the happy ending. But if you're sensitive like me, I wanted them to pick up his grandmother so he wouldn't be alone. I worried that living a life with helium balloons may not be the best place for him in the long run.

Ya know?