Yes, in case you're wondering, there was a loop tied in the string. No, he would not keep it around his wrist.
It happened so quickly and was so utterly unfixable.
Ben broke down immediately, completely, more intensely than I've ever seen before. It was a real, honest-to-goodness tantrum (rather than the aforementioned Robot Rampage). The kind with screaming and yelling and crying, where people up and down the block stopped and stared at us, and perhaps pondered calling Child Protective Services.
He did a couple of interesting things during his meltdown. One is that he used a lot of language and sort of narrated the experience while he was crying.
The other thing is that he asked - pleaded - that he be able to call his cousins on the phone to tell them about what had happened. (We had just said good-bye to them before the Trader Joe's stop.)
Language, plus wanting to reach out to others to tell them about something difficult seemed like a positive development. Although it was difficult to keep this in mind while walking down a busy thoroughfare carrying a flailing, out-of-control child.
In the car, he asked several times about where the balloon had gone. At one point he offered an idea of his own:
"Maybe it went to Balloonia."
I think that "Balloonia" is from a story at school, since I seem to remember him referring to Balloonia before, but I'm not certain. In any case, it's a lovely idea.
"Is Balloonia a happy place?" I asked.
"Is the balloon happy in Balloonia?"
When we got home he said, "Wow. That was so sad and scary."
He asked about the balloon several times during the night. Remembering that his teacher once had him dicatate a letter to me one day in school when he was sad, I asked him if he'd like to write a letter to the balloon, a letter that we could send to Balloonia. He liked the idea a lot.
Here's the very poignant letter that he dictated to me:
I got you at Trader Joe's. And I held on tight to my balloon when the light was red. But then the balloon lost control and went into the sky and I was sad and mad.
I missed my balloon and it went to Balloonia. And I love my balloon. And sometimes things happen. But sometimes when they leave you could feel sad or mad.
I love my balloon. And I love the sky. And I like the clouds.
So, whenever you hold tight to a balloon, it could leave up in the sky. It could make you sad or even mad.
He read it back to me after I had finished writing, choking himself up a bit at "I missed my balloon..."
Now, here's the question: Should the balloon write back?
Stay tuned, perhaps, for tales of adventure from Balloonia.