For my Mom’s birthday one December, my Dad tied a helium balloon to the gift he gave her, as a bit of whimsy. The Happy Birthday balloon wound up staying with us for nearly six months. It had deflated somewhat, but managed to stay aloft–about five and a half feet above the level of the floor—never less, never more.

Somebody told me it was traveling on the air currents in the house, because, though we kept returning it to the living room corner by the mantle, it was always found wandering in the house and would need to be returned again. It moved silently and slowly, with a slight bob effect. And it seemed to have a front side and a back, since the Happy Birthday side always faced the direction it was moving. Happy Birthday would enter the room, travel around as if exploring, then turn to leave as you stared after its plain silver back.

It bobbed around, room to room, month after month, traveling from the living room down the hallway to each of the bedrooms in turn, and then back to the living room. It never ventured down the stairs to the lower level of the house.

One Saturday morning, I awoke to find it entering my room. It lowered down to the level of my bed and floated right across me toward the window. It bobbed up for a moment, and then turned back and lowered again to travel just above me. “Knock it off, Happy Birthday,” I yawned, rolling over. I watched it float back up to its typical height and leave my room, Happy Birthday side facing the hallway.

Adventures of Happy BirthdayOne spring afternoon in May, Happy Birthday got out. I’d been keeping a close eye one it for a few weeks because, with the nicer weather, sometimes the back door of the house would get left open. On that day, I remember Happy Birthday was in his spot in the living room, toward the front of the house. When the back door opened, he headed toward the open door. I ran—no kidding, ran—to cut him off and shut the door, and I returned him to his living room spot. A few moments later, I returned to the living room and he was gone. Curious, I turned to see that the back door was open again, and I just caught the shimmer of silver floating out. I took off after him, but he was nowhere in sight. I checked the roofline, looked to the sky. I even looked low, as Happy Birthday never floated very high. I even stood still and felt for the direction of the wind. There was no wind. So I ran around the entire outside of the house searching for him, but he’d vanished. Finally, I simply waved at the sky and whispered, “Farewell, friend. Have good adventures.”

My parents and sister hadn’t seen him go. I imagine H.B. planned it that way. The call to adventure is unmistakable, and strong.

Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler full of poignant whimsy. Her current writing projects, including this daily blog endeavor, #Project365, can be found at