The Tanabata Festival and a Flying Balloon

I am four years old in this memory.

Early August, my maternal grandmother comes to stay with us for the Sendai Tanabata Festival, our town’s major summer attraction. From 6th to 8th August, all the local stores inside the shopping arcades in the city centre hang traditional bamboo decorations from the outside ceiling, and visitors can walk through the dense forest of beautiful decorations while enjoying shopping.

This is the first time my one-year-old brother experiences this festival. Hard to believe, but last August, he was still staying at hospital, thin and fragile. Now? He is a plump little boy, baby-talking and baby-walking.

My grandmother, my mother and father, my baby brother and I walk down the crowded passage of the familiar shopping arcade. The bamboo decorations are everywhere, their long paper tails caressing our faces as we made our way through them.

On the way, I find a vendor selling many flying balloons. One of them has my favourite anime character Sailor Moon on it.

“I want that balloon,” I cannot help expressing my interest, though I do not expect my wish to be answered. I am fully aware that the only time my material wish comes true is either on my birthday or on Christmas.

But today, something unexpected happens. As soon as I express my wish about the balloon, my grandmother speaks to the vendor and buys one for me. Within seconds, the very balloon I have wanted lands in my hand!

“Hold on tight,” she tells me. “So that the balloon won’t fly away!”

I am so happy that for the rest of our walk, my attention dances solely around my Sailor Moon balloon. I am no longer looking at the bamboo decorations, but at the shiny pink round balloon hovering over my head.

Once we are back home, I go to the backroom and release the balloon from my hand. It shoots up to the ceiling, leaving the long thread dangling in the air.

“How fun!” I like the way the balloon is stuck to the ceiling, watching over me.

The balloon stays there the next day, and the day after. It stays there, each day deflating a little, until one day, the air inside the balloon finally loses power and both the balloon and the thread fall silently on the floor.