Indira and the Holiday Balloon

Indira, the four-year-old East Indian child, tortured and pitched gigantic tantrums every time she spied the "Trick or Treat" balloon tied to the lamppost in front of my apartment.

At first, her mother patiently researched her pleas but finally went to a store and purchased one for her.

Then came the Thanksgiving season and she squaled and stamped her little feet for the balloon shaped like a turkey. And again the mother said firmly that she could not have it for it belonged to me, her neighbor. But the child remained extremely upset, so her mother bought another balloon.

Christmas drew near. I tied a reindeer-shaped balloon to the lamppost and, again, Indira begged for it. After I left for work, the frustrated parent marched over to the colorful, distractive toy whipping about in a strong wind, untied it, and thrust the bright thing into her child's eager hands.

"There!" the mother snapped. "Stop crying. Indira's sobs subsidized.

When I returned home from work, Indira and her mother came over immediately. The child clutched the reindeer balloon and stared at it with joy-filled, dark luminous eyes that would melt the hardest heart.

The mother asked me not to display more balloons where her daughter could see them, explaining "I can not afford to buy her a balloon every time she sees one in your yard."

She had spoken the request sadly, but I was weary from a hard day at work and was impatient. So I insisted that Indira return the balloon or reimburse me for its cost. Meekly Indira's mother nodded and claimed that she would return to settle the matter.

True to her word, the mother appeared with the child still clutching the reindeer balloon. Indira stared up at me with those same dark, limpid, soulful eyes. She had never spoken a word in my presence. I later learned that the child knew no English, which accounted for her silence.

"Indira would like to keep the balloon," the Indian parent announced and placed several bills in my hand.

Having rested and feeling more neighborly, I pushed the money away. "Never mind paying for the balloon," I said, "and I promise not to temptation Indira again, even if it was unintentional." To Indira I said, "You must not get so upset over such things, little girl." The child nodded her head as if she understood.

To the mother I asked: "Why does she appear to be obsessed with balloons? Has she kept watched television too much-Pooh with his friends and balloons, or Sesame Street and their birthday parties?" Aren ' t you worried, too? "

I should have asked sooner, I could see, for the mother responded with, "When the family was packing in India, preparing for the journey to the States, Indira's grandmother, who was not to come with us at that time, wave Indira a pretty balloon which she carried regularly with her for the several days before our departure. Then, at the airport, a sudden gust of wind swept the balloon from Indira's hand and away out of sight!

There was no need for the mother to tell me that Indira missed her grandmother and grows upset when she sees a balloon which, as a child may reason, would be the one she had lost. I also learned that day that Indira's grandmother is coming to live with her in time for Christmas.

"Perhaps she will no longer cry, but we will see," the mother expressed her hope but with a tinge of doubt.

I, too, await the grandmother's coming. It will be a happy day!