Tonight while watching the Cub's game, the announcers started talking about Whitey Herzog who was just inducted into the baseball hall of fame this past week. Great honor indeed, but that man pisses me off.
When I was little my mom would take me shoe shopping at this cute little shoe store in Lake Forest called The Forest Bootery. When you got your shoes, the salesperson would give you a big bright helium balloon. Helium balloons always made my mom nervous because when she was little she attended a birthday party and one of the boys bit into a helium balloon and when it popped a piece of the balloon got lodged in his windpipe and he died. It was a horrific freak accident but since then my mom has never been a big fan of balloons and didn't like them in the house. So it was kind of a big deal when I finally got to keep my balloon, of course promising I would NEVER bite it or even put it anywhere near my face. And forget about sucking the helium. Had to sneak out of the house to do that.
So here I come bumbling in from shopping with Mom, no more than 4 or 5 years old. I've got the balloon tied around my wrist squealing as it bounces in the air behind me while running around the house. My Dad had some baseball buddies over, Whitey being one of them, and they were swapping stories drinking manhattans and smoking cigars in the den. I can remember exactly where Whitey was sitting, on the ottoman next to the fireplace, when he called me over.
"Hey you! What you got there?" (pointing to my balloon with his cigar)
"It's my balloon."
"Oh come on over here, let me take a look at that."
As I approached he grabbed the string with one hand pulling the balloon between us and with the other, butted the cigar right up to the side of my balloon - and it popped with the loudest bang. It hurt my ears and made me jump.
Of course I burst into tears and ran to my mom screaming "That mean man popped my balloon!" and she tried to her best to comfort me while sharing some choice words and an evil eye with my Dad. After that I wasn't allowed (nor did I WANT) to step foot in the den when his buddies were over. Although, sometimes I would sneak down and hide just outside the room and listen to them talk. They used "bad words" which fascinated me, and at the innocent age of five, I had the vocabulary of a ship wrecked sailor.
I really miss that fucking balloon.