As a child I was very fond of The Red Balloon. I guess I had that glorious mix of Curious George and Lewis and Clarke. I loved adventure and mischief. I found the story intoxicating. The librarian from my local branch read the story for us, a clutch of eager Indian-seated kindergartners. I didn’t actually see Lamorisse’s film version until a bit later so I concocted my own image of the boy in earnest pursuit of his red balloon.
Did I know a darn thing about ulterior motives and bunko artists— husbands who’d Wife Swap just to get their pasty mugs on the tube. I must admit I was much to inchoate to know such things. Thank goodness. But, I’m not going into “Balloon Boy”. My memory of The Red Balloon is too special to sully it with a dead-on comparison.
I was a tad over five when I went to the local branch for story time. Ms. Bellamy lulled us with her tender voice and her gift of assonance. She looked up as she read off the page. She’d catch you open-mouthed listening to every word she uttered. I had the princely feeling she was only reading to me, but of course the room was full of other eager ears.
Ms. Bellamy had proffered my first library card a lilywhite, partially perforated paper rectangle that I kept on top of my sock drawer. Babar, Curious George, Lyle Crocodile, and The Red Balloon were all of my original loaners. The books had a peculiar, but dizzying smell of parchment and warm bread. I was nourished by that first delightful panoply of words. Most of all I loved being read to, and unfortunately it would take quite a while before I had the boundless appreciation to read to myself.
Maybe as an only child I wanted the company of a cherubic reader like Ms. Bellamy. I’m not entirely sure why I didn’t carry on myself. I could busy myself with Legos and Girder Panels. I had the making of a city planner both from antiquity erecting pyramids and also in a forward-thinking quasi Frank Gehry sense.
I was very sad when the Parisian bullies destroyed Pascal’s balloon. I think it caused my first hiccup and I couldn’t watch the same scene the second time. I guess seeing that brutality may have contributed to my fictive bend as I tried to give Pascal, a new beginning. I also found it magical, but terrifying he could ride a hot-aired balloon. Back then, I was still afraid of heights.