Childhood Innocence

It's in August of 1950.
The five-year-old boy now stands on the verge
of initial loss of childhood innocence,
the end of days filled only with things fun and nifty.

For come this September he will enter the first grade,
enter a world of homework, bullies, conformity,
start to fill his mind with facts and figures, replacing
fantasy with logic, ‘til into an adult he is made.

But today he still inhabits a world of magic,
the afternoon spent at play in the park,
where castles are made of sand and knights can slay dragons.
His mother talking with an older lady, he hears "How tragic!".

Hot, dirty, tired, the boy is ready to go home soon.
He whines, interrupting conversation between the ladies.
His mother placates him, "Go wash your face and hands
to cool off. Here's a quarter. Buy yourself a balloon."

Buying a balloon excites the boy, for balloons belong
among magical things...helium-filled, they are forever
plotting escape and it is always hard to subdue them
until they deflate or burst. He returns happy before long.

Sitting beside his mother, he hears the older lady say
"All my kinfolk are dead. I'm all alone. I've lived too long.
I'm ready to go to Heaven." "If you buy all the balloons
that man has, you could fly to Heaven that way!"

Proud of his idea, he pouts when shushed by his mother.
Soon they leave for home. The next weekend he asks where
the old lady is today. "She flew to Heaven with balloons
as you suggested." This accepted, it's not explained further.

It would be years before the boy realized she didn't truly fly
away to Heaven on balloons. I know because the boy was I.

Harry Edward Gilleland      05.21.02