Water Balloons

Water Balloons

As I rolled out for work this morning, the neighbor’s youngest, Lucas, came to the edge of the driveway, a devilish four-year-old grin on his face, in his hand a plump water balloon. He looked up at me, half in threat, half in search of permission. I smiled back, half in fear, half in complicity. His brother and my kids had just left together for their last day of school. The air simmered with rebellion.

Too often, I find myself on the wrong side of the parent/child divide. While I am cleaning and organizing, pajamas crumpled on the stairs next to a stuffed animal, shoes abandoned by the front door, the remains of breakfast, the boys are hurling themselves headlong into the day. If the project of parenthood is to rediscover youth through your children, then I am failing horribly.

Fortunately, their irrepressibality mostly overcomes my attempts to repress, to keep all the color inside the lines.

And Rob said, “No, let’s not double-back. Let’s just stick to the route,” even though we both knew the trail we were passing up was better than the road we were rolling. Adults find comfort in order, in things unfolding as we expect them to.

How many detours have I bypassed thinking I’d check them out later? How many rides have I declined because I was tired?

Today is the last day of school in our neighborhood, all the kids capering along the sidewalks, the wide expanse of summer yawning before them. I always associate this time of year with Hüsker Dü’s Celebrated Summer, “Getting drunk out on the beach/Or playing in a band/And getting out of school/Meant getting out of hand.”

I made one concession to the fuck-it-ness of the day and rode to work with no helmet. I felt vulnerable.

I told Lucas he could water balloon me on my way home, to be ready. Then, with some encouragement, he threw his balloon up into the air and watched as it splattered darkly in the dust and pollen of the street, lines of spray radiating out from the center. We all looked at the curious pattern for a moment, trying to find evidence of the sweating balloon that had been floating skyward only a second before. But, water balloons are like childhood, richly promising, and then suddenly, sadly over.

, ,


  1. Full Monte

    Tonight you shall ride home and as your round the corner to your street, face a phalanx of water balloon bearing hooligans. From behind the trash cans, up above in tree branches, behind the neighbor’s minivan shall their plump, wet missiles fly. At you.

    Not the day I’d choose to go sans helmet, for now you will run the gauntlet not only unarmed, but unprotected.

    A thought: Stop by a Walmart or toy store on your ride home, buy a Super Soaker. Return fire, er, water. It’ll no doubt soak you more than them as you carry it into battle, but Dad on a bike with Super Soaker is quite possibly the best last-day-of-school-fuck-it-ness that a child might ever hope to see, and a father hope to have.

  2. nrs5000


    I took my sons to ride bikes on the local playground this weekend. The “ride” devolved into a bidon water fight. I decided to base myself around the water fountain so I could refill. Alas, the kids had no fear of getting wet, and a good sense of teamwork, and dad was vanquished.

  3. SusanJane

    Riding to the elementary school in the early, early morning clutching plastic bags of water balloons, toting plastic buckets, and big plans of tactics and strategy. The school was best because the desert version of a water fountain was a white porcelain water trough with 12 regular garden style faucets. Swimsuits — it was already 90 degrees and we only had so much time. Towels were unnecessary since we would be dry in 10 minutes. From there the battles began, screaming and running until the pavement was too hot. Then the fast ride home without stopping so we wouldn’t burn the bottoms of our feet.

    Super soakers are for wimps. Sopping wet sponges are more personal and much more fun.

    The ad agency I worked for at one time used to go out on days like this and buy popsicles. The fruit only kind are best since tastes vary as do diets. Do your co-workers a super fun thing and make their day.

    No helmet? Try no shorts instead. At least if someone hits you you’re less likely to die and will make the local news for something other then being statistically challenged.

  4. Andrew

    Cheap thrills are awfully hard to find these days
    No one is amused for free
    Someones pulling on your mamas apron strings
    Youd better run and see who it is

    Playing cards with your neighbors on the back porch
    Singing with an old beat-up guitar
    Going to the local swimming hole
    Until they closed it down, now theres nowhere to go

    Things used to be so simple long time ago
    Now everything is so expensive and complicated
    I hear you need a license
    For just about anything

  5. Les.B.

    For some reason this reminds me of 1967 in the town of Pinole: I have my Rambler (a car) at a car wash. Two adolescent girls come by, one asks if I want to buy candy for her school. So I hand the wand to the other girl to hold while I proceed with the candy transaction. And while I was thus proceeding, the kid with the wand in hand turns it on me. Rascal!

  6. Ron S

    Robot, I have never heard or read the word “plump” in association with a water ballon, but it has to be the best way to describe one. The plump image immediately popped into my mind and now I will happily remember it all day. 🙂

Leave a Reply to Pat O'Brien Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *