If I had a bucket list, there would be a HUGE check mark next to a task that I would definitely have on there. On December 7th, I had one of my dreams come true. It may seem something that is ridiculous or insignificant, but I got really excited about doing it and it turned out to be better than I thought it would be. Are you ready?!?!?!?! I had the privilege of being a balloon handler in the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Christmas Parade! It was GREAT!!!!! Because I won the Daisy Award in February, I was asked to march in the parade. I had the best time. The balloon that I walked with was an elf balloon. It was the first one in the parade. If I could do it every year, I would! Of course, with everything I do, there had to be some "interesting" parts.
I had to be at the parade at 7 am. Every day leading up to the parade was in the 60's and 70's. For some reason, it decided to turn into winter weather that morning. I woke up, fed Baby O, and then my dad was picking me up to bring me to the parade so I did not have to worry about parking. Well, I hopped in my dad's car, which was parked in the middle of the driveway, and it would not start. His truck was blocking both doors of the garage. I called Sam and we did not have any sort of jumper cables or anything. So, my dad had to put the car in neutral and I steered while we inched his truck over slowly but surely. He ended up driving Sam's car to drop me off. Not quite sure how he achieved this, but I arrived at the parade at 7:05. There was a nice little cozy tent - which was nice because it was FREEZING! We were not allowed to wear coats or hats. I had on 7 shirts and a pair of gloves. I was an icicle. At 7:15, they told us they needed some volunteers to hold down some of the balloons while they were getting blown up. Eager to get started, I hopped to it and lent a hand. It turns out that I had to stand in the same spot from 7:15 until 10:30 when the parade started. In the FREEZING cold. For some strange reason, when they were asking for volunteers, the only people actually volunteering were CHOA nurses. Breakfast was provided and we froze and watched others (big strong burly men) stand in the tent nice and warm, eating and drinking coffee. We finally started to send one person at a time to get food. Would it surprise you that the nurses were standing there skipping a meal and being the first ones to lend a hand? While we were waiting, the man from the balloon company came over and told us that he was going to give us a quick lesson because we would not have a professional with us. He showed us how to raise and lower the balloon - as it turns out, Peachtree has tons of power lines. Balloons and power lines do not mix, so we had to raise and lower the balloon. The pro told us that no matter what, make sure that the balloon was flying nice and high when we got to the Grand Stand. This is where the TV cameras are and also where the sponsors and their families sit. Seemed easy enough, right?
As 10:30 approached, my heart was pounding! The band in front of us started to play. They started to walk. We got the cue for us to move. Around the corner we went - only to be greeted by a power line right away. We lowered and raised the balloon as though we had been doing this forever. Woo hoo! Marching along the parade route, waving to the thousands of people who were sitting along the street, this was a dream come true for me! Suddenly, the parade came to a halt. I knew what this meant. We were getting closer to the Grand Stand. This was it! Make the balloon look beautiful. As we were standing there, it started to get a little windy. I was thinking this was my big TV debut. It can't be windy. My hair was going to get all crazy and my eyes would start to water which would cause my makeup to run. We started to move again. This was it! We were approaching the Grand Stand! I could hear the announcer say that we were Daisy Nurses and describe what a Daisy Nurse it. Just as we were getting there, a GIGANTIC gust of wind came and we lost control of the balloon. On the Grand Stand. On TV. In front of the sponsors and their families. More importantly, my hair was a mess. There went my hopes of being discovered. My chance of getting a walk on role on Days of Our Lives was completely gone. They did not keep the cameras on our balloon for very long. Just long enough to see me yelling at everyone to pull on their ropes to bring the balloon down - or as my dad said, "That's about right. There's Marisa being bossy and telling everyone what to do." Funny how as soon as we started moving, the wind died down.
We started walking again and managed the power lines with no issue. Along the route, there were several radio stations that were broadcasting. As we approached one, we could hear the announcer talk about how we were Daisy Nurses. With that, another giant gust of wind came and we lost control of the balloon again. This time, the weight of the balloon started to pull us as the balloon got lower and lower to the ground. Suddenly, there was a chorus of children screaming as the balloon was rapidly making its way into the crowd of bystanders along the side of the street. How ironic is that? The nurses who usually save lives were now about to run people over with a giant elf balloon. Nothing says Merry Christmas like a children's hospital Christmas parade tragedy. Luckily, we gained control of the balloon again and finished the parade without any incidence.
One thing I did not realize is that, as balloon handlers, we would be responsible for deflating and folding up the balloon. At the end of the route, we took a left hand turn down a side street. I was at the butt end of the elf where the zipper was to let all of the helium out. The zipper was gigantic - about the width of my arm. I volunteered to unzip the balloon being that I was right there. I started to unzip and the zipper got stuck. A little bit of helium was leaking out of the small opening I created, but at that rate, we would be there until New Year's Day waiting to get it all out. So I tugged really hard on the zipper. That's when it happened. The helium started to rush out. I mean really rush out. My hair was flying backwards like someone who was sitting in a convertible going 80 miles per hour. I was so taken aback, I took in a huge gasp of air. I was paralyzed with shock as I could actually see the wavy lines of the gas streaming out. And that is when I opened my mouth to speak. I was able to mutter out, "I feel really dizzy, guys!" But it wasn't my voice. It was the voice of Mickey Mouse after HE had sucked helium. Everyone burst out laughing because my voice was so high pitched. Someone pulled me away from the opening and my voice stayed high for a bit longer than it would if you had sucked helium from your good old standard party balloon. I couldn't help but laugh. Only me.
Once our happy little elf was all deflated and folded, I was able to locate my fan club. It consisted of Sam, my dad, and Baby O. We piled in the car. At this point, I was so cold, my body stung when it started to warm up. When we got home, I watched the parade on DVR. Not long after that, I took a very long nap! Even with all of the issues we had, it was still a dream come true for me. Carrying a balloon looks like it is easy, but let me tell you, it is some hard work!
As for everything else, life is going well. Baby O continues to grow. How is he 11 weeks already? I go back to work on Sunday. I am not quite sure how they are going to be able to rip me away from Baby O. Perhaps I can wear him in his carrier during my whole shift? We stayed in GA for Christmas this year. It was hard for me to not be in NY. Christmas Day also marked 5 years since my Grams gained her angel wings. I hope everyone is doing well and gearing up for 2014!
"If you're not in the parade, you watch the parade. That's life." ~Mike Ditka
"Do all you can to make your dreams come true." ~Joel Osteen