A few years ago my mother called me early one evening. She lived far from me and it was customary for her to give me a buzz on occasion when she felt chatty. I'd call her back on my cell so that she would not incur long distance phone bills.
The call didn't surprise me but the hour did, since she rarely phoned until she'd finished watching a batch of soap operas of which she was very fond. That night, though, her voice was a little different, and on questioning, I found out what was the matter.
One of her neighbors, whose young daughter had died recently, had a "birthday party" for the child that afternoon. The celebration consisted of the parents releasing a batch of pink balloons into the heavens, pink being the child's favorite color. This seemingly nonsensical act touched my mother deeply.
It was, she told me, something she thought I would like, something she thought I would do. I hate to say this but I didn't respond much to the conversation at the time, somehow made light of it. But last year, after my mother had died and her birthday had rolled around, the balloon story reared its head in my memory, and I acted on it, much like I did today, what would have been my mother's birthday.
I purchased three orange balloons (my mother wasn't a pink person, she was an orange sort) and headed towards the beach. The sky, bright and October brilliant, the sun blazing overhead, the wind just right; I released them and watched as they flew high, high, higher until they were just small specks.
Happy Birthday, Mami.
Amen, and pass the mustard.