The summer before Ben turned five, we blew bubbles in the back yard all the time. Ben had a green plastic saxophone bubble maker and when he would blow and blow into it, he would form a big, sturdy bubble that would float into the sky like a balloon. Or it might fly into a tree branch and pop, which was kind of cool too. Sometimes Ben would blow bubbles when the sun was going down, and the bubbles would turn orange and gold and glow like round, self-contained sunsets.
One day we were out on the deck and he blew a big bubble that floated up as high as the top of a tall tree in back of the driveway. Then he said something he’d never said before.
“Mommy, it’s going to come back.”
It’s sad sometimes when Ben gets disappointed. Most of the time he’s a really good sport, but some things will get to him, and he cries in a way that breaks your heart. I know the kinds of things that can make him feel crushed, and this would be one of them.
So I told him, “Well, it’s a beautiful bubble, but we have to just let it go, because they don’t really come back like that.”
“It’s going to come back,” he said. It floated higher and farther away and began moving southeast.
“Well, sweetie, I don’t think it will,” I said. We watched the bubble shine in the sky. It dipped a little, then flew higher.
“Yes. It’s going to come back.”
“Okaaay—but Ben, instead of wondering if it’s going to come back, how about if you just look at how pretty it is now?”
We watched. It floated to the side of the house and then went behind the house, out of sight. I looked at Ben’s face. He was watching the spot where it disappeared.
“Honey? They don’t come back—that’s not what bubbles do. You know that, right?” He kept watching the spot—quite patiently, I noticed.
Suddenly he shouted, “Mommy—it’s coming back!” I turned around and there before me was the damn bubble coming around the house. He held out his saxophone to catch it, but he was about a foot too short. The bubble tottered toward the bricks of the house, perilously close to popping itself. My hand joined with his, and we raised the saxophone. The bubble landed right on it as smooth as cream pie. All I could do was stare at the bubble sitting there shimmering and at the smiling face of this strange mystical little boy.
He never again said that a bubble was going to come back. And of course none of them ever have.