I didn’t realize until later, after the lights were out and the sheets were tucked around her, that when my daughter asked that I hold on that I hold on tight to the balloons that what she really wanted was for the party to not end and she thought that if we held on to the balloons that the party would not end and she needed my help in this one sure party-saving act and that is why she had what we call a meltdown: her mother failed to help her in this one act that was sure to keep us here at the party forever.
She had asked me, previous to the balloon-time-stopping attempt, to give her the moon. Can’t reach it, she said. I, too, could not reach it, knew I could not reach it, but showed her that I was trying that I would if I could.
And she has said the sentence as clear as a bell tonight: Mommy, let me have it.
And it was stunning: the message, the sentence, the want, the clarity of that.
We have given her the balloon at the top of the balloon tower; it is a giant shimmering silver star balloon that, after we had dismounted it, was discovered to be full of the buoyant helium. Hold it tight, I tell her, so that it doesn’t fly away so that it doesn’t go up and stay with the other stars that are too far away.
I try to placate her so that she will not cry the whole ride: someday Mommy will get you the moon.
I realize now that that is what I do when I hold her at night: I am trying to keep us here; I am trying to keep her from floating away and staying where I cannot reach her. And between the darkness and the bad dreams, it is the solely the hold that makes her trust the deep drowning of sleep.