The balloons danced furiously on their strings in the strong wind, straining to break free as the messenger pushed his way through the luncheon crowd in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York.
Papers and candy wrappers swirled like little tornadoes in the street. "Polly's Party Planners" read the letters on the man's baseball jacket. Obviously late, he pressed on grimly.
It was hardly a warm spring day. But the sky was paint-box blue.
"Goodness! He's going to levitate," I thought.
Suddenly, a particularly strong gust swept down Fifth Avenue and tore the balloons from his proprietary grasp. Away they sailed over his head, caroming off a lamppost then floating up over the crowded street.
"Look, Mommy. Look at the balloons." A child's excited voice came from behind me. I stood transfixed by the bright airborne bouquet.
Others stopped, curious faces turned upward. They smiled, nudged each other, and pointed toward the sky. The balloons soared higher - tossed first one way then another by the insistent wind - past the great bronze door of the cathedral with its saints and martyrs; past the delicate marble arches; the serene granite and the exquisite lace work of the two bell towers. For one moment, the gray street was transformed into a wonderland of possibilities. Earthbound, I watched until the balloons were out of sight.