Lollipops and Balloons

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
Party pieces for children with parents in mind.

Submitted: April 06, 2014

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Submitted: April 06, 2014

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LOLLIPOPS AND BALLOONS

The lollipop lady stood in the centre of the road holding her giant lollipop in one hand and the other arm stretched out gesturing to the children to cross as quickly as possible without actually running. She was dressed in her long fluorescent yellow coat, black hat, and gloves, as protection against bad weather. The words ‘STOP CHILDREN’ were written on her lollipop. Mothers and children trying to cross the road outside the school were comforted by her presence. They felt safe just seeing her in the bright yellow uniform. Not all the children were met by their mothers or fathers, some were picked up by grandparents or babysitters. There was the problem of parked cars, which meant that the lollipop lady was unable to wait on the pavement till a group wanted to cross over, and she was obliged to stand between the parked cars. The car-owning mothers were, on many occasions, the least tolerant of pedestrians, and were beeping those who walked to the school to fetch their children and walk them home.

The majority of the children who knew the lollipop lady were of primary school age. They forgot about her as soon as they got indoors, and the only lollipops they were interested in were of the edible variety.

 

David’s mother, Sally, was busy working out all the details of her son’s birthday party. As her only son was six years old, she was limited as to what she could supply for the children’s entertainment and nourishment. At the last party David had attended, there had been a group of young teenagers who dressed the children up in fancy-dress costumes and make-up. They had been given songs to sing and had danced. What it really was, was that the children had entertained themselves instead of being the other way round. For extrovert children dressing up and being made-up and singing and dancing was fine, but for the shyer ones it proved to be a painful experience instead of a happy time. Then there were sweets. The powers that be had put it about that sweets had to be sugar free, to help lower the number of children with caries and adults with diabetes. Try telling that to a small child when it says, “Mummy, these sweets taste funny. I don’t like them, they’re not sweets.”

Sally tried one of the sugarless sweets and they did taste rather unusual, not at all as they generally did. When David had gone to bed, she trashed the sugarless sweets and decided to have a good think what she would give the party guests. She already knew the one who was not allowed to eat sugar, Martin, who was a good friend of David, and had a mother who was always on a crusade for healthier eating. Her name was Millie. Ever since the two mothers had met at the school gate, the two women had never had what Sally called a nice gossipy conversation. Millie went in for heavy weather stuff. “Have you heard that washing up liquid can cause cancer? The meat processors put all sorts of rubbish in sausages and meat pies and hamburgers? I’m surprised anyone still eats that stuff.”

Sally never contradicted Millie, she kept her thoughts to herself. Millie thought her cooking was wonderful, but the birthday cake she had made for Martin had been absolutely awful. Nobody had bothered to eat any more after the first bite, if it had been possible to get their teeth into it. Sally had placed her piece in her handbag, together with David’s. “It’s sugar free and gluten free,” declared Millie. .

 

Now, as she was working on David’s party, she knew she would have to use a lot of cunning to make sure it was a success from the children’s point of view.

The party day arrived, and Sally got her mother to take David out so that she and her husband, Mike, could decorate the living-room. The first thing they did was to cover the ceiling with an old sheet and fill it with inflated balloons. That took some time, and they went on to remove the carpet and the furniture, so that there would be enough room for the clown they had engaged to be able to perform without hindrance. Sally went into the kitchen to prepare the mini-sandwiches, sausage rolls, crisps, faces were made on bread with cheese and pineapple, biscuits were shaped like animals, and there were also mini-pizzas and mini-burgers.

The official time to arrive was half-past three, and one by one the little guests entered, carrying a present for the birthday boy. After a couple of games, the children were invited to sit on the floor and partake of the party food. Some of it, of course, fell on the floor, but it didn’t look too bad. Sally and Mike were pleased that the carpet had been taken up.

At five o’clock the clown entered the party room. He went by the name of Nutty Norman, and wore a bright green top and trousers covered with black dots. He wore a black top-hat and black gloves and long-toed black shoes. His face was painted pink, with a bright red nose and mouth. His eyelids were painted green, the same shade as his clothes. He was ageless, and with all that outfit it was difficult to tell his age.

He began by getting David to come forward, and played some tricks on him with balls, scarves appearing from nowhere, and coins that were found in David’s hand or behind one of his ears. The children laughed and screamed with the different tricks and jokes, and loved wearing a red clown’s nose and having their photo taken. All the children had the opportunity to appear as the clown’s volunteer. At half-past five, Sally turned out the lights and took the cake into the living-room. David was thrilled, as the cake had a railway line running all round the top of the cake, with a tiny train and a station. He blew out the seven candles, as was the custom, and Sally and her mother cut the cake into pieces for the children. That done, Mike pulled a string and the balloons in yellow, red, blue, orange, green, white, pink, black, silver, gold, and purple descended from the ceiling and the children ran around trying catch them and pop them.

The children’s parents came to pick them up, and Sally gave each child a small bag of goodies, with lollipops included. All in all, David’s party was a success.

 

In the summer the weather became very hot, and the sweet lollipops were exchanged for ice lollipops. These were bought or made at home with fruit juice. The children preferred those bought at an ice-cream shop or from a fridge in a supermarket. Cicely, whose birthday fell in the summer, had a different kind of party. She was also an only child, and as everyone was away on holiday the number of little guests at her parties was reduced. However, her family made up for it. Sophie, Cicely’s mother, worked in decoration and was always on the lookout for original things in the home and her office. Sophie invited her brothers and sisters with their children to Cicely’s party.

The centre of attention was sitting at a long table on the terrace outside the living-room with her name, CICELY, written in large many-coloured balloons on the wall. On the table was an enormous cake with pink icing and candles. Cicely dutifully blew out the candles, and her mother cut a piece of the cake for each of the visitors. Later that day there would be a dinner in a restaurant with the family, and another cake. Cicely would receive her presents after the dinner at the end of the day. Cicely liked her parties, as they were so different from those of her friends. She was always the star of the show and, after all, that’s what a birthday is for. It was at Cicely’s party everyone had an ice lollipop to cool them down.

 

The children were unaware of what was really going on behind the fabulous parties where there were endless lollipops and balloons. The party people who arranged for all the hyperactivity made money out of all that. Of course, it all started when the children were babies, and mothers saw an inflated balloon for sale in a supermarket and, seeing other mothers pushing buggies with a balloon attached to the handle, refused to be out-marketed by another, and had to copy sheep-like. Walking around the galleries of a shopping centre, balloons of many different shapes and sizes were to be seen on the babies’ buggies, with the babies oblivious to the floating monster spiralling upwards in front of them. As the children went from buggies to walking, the balloons were held by them. The tears shed when the brightly coloured object flew up and out of sight were not to be ignored, so the mothers presented their precious offspring with another one.

 

On Brian’s birthday his mother, Lucy, was just like the other mothers, desirous of making a special party for her son. From one birthday to the next, she kept a part of her free time in writing down ideas for Brian’s birthday. The source of the idea wasn’t important, the originality of the idea was what counted. Weeks before the day, Lucy was out and about buying all kinds of decorations. As both David’s and Cicely’s parties had used a balloon theme, Lucy knew she had to do the same. On one Saturday afternoon while she was watching a film, she was captivated by a huge tree of balloons. The tree went down from the ceiling to the floor, and then the children would be given a pin to pop the balloons with. Lucy recorded the balloon tree from the television, and watched it till she had got the idea firmly fixed in her head. The rest of the decorations were glittery, in spite of Brian being a boy. Lucy was partial to a bit of glitter, and after all it was her son whose party it was.

 The afternoon came, and the children were all big eyes at the sight of the balloon tree. The party food, also stolen from a film Lucy had seen on television, had been hidden by Lucy and her mother in colourful little boxes in Brian’s playroom. The children were given clues as to where the food was hidden. There were pink boxes for the girls and blue for the boys. There was a lot of pushing and shoving among the small children, and screams too. After all the serious food had been consumed, the time for the sweets came, and Lucy presented each child with a huge bowl of four large balls of ice-cream and jelly, which went down very well. Then the children were allowed to burst the balloons, inside which were more sweets. That over, Lucy put on the television a DVD of the latest children’s film and left them to work off the food. When the parents went to pick their children up, Lucy gave each child a bag of lollipops of all colours and flavours. Not one parent objected to the bag of goodies, as they knew it was all part of birthday parties, and woe betide the parent who took the bag off their child.

When tidying up came round, the leftovers of food were rather nasty to pick up, but perhaps the saddest sight of all were the remains of the gaily coloured balloons, the bits of tatty plastic hanging from pieces of string were hard to relate to what they had been a short time before. Clearing up after parties was always rather depressing.

 

There were two little girls who went to school with the others, their names were Heather and Margaret. These two friends were passing through a bad time. Margaret’s parents were unable to have a party for their daughter’s birthday, due to their overspending and living on one wage. Margaret had lived very well while both parents were working, but when her mother lost her job due to cuts in the staff, then everyone in the family had to pull in their belts. Margaret’s father, Eric, fortunately still had work but the economic flexibility they had enjoyed when his wife, Jenny, had been working, disappeared from one day to the next.

Margaret was most put out when she was denied clothes and DVDs and the latest technical gadgets that her friends got every time they went shopping with their parents. Jenny and Eric tried remonstrating with her but to no avail. Margaret said they were mean, and so it went on. There was another problem, that when it was time for Margaret’s birthday, there was no party due to the financial straits of her parents. The only guests she would have were grandparents, uncles, and cousins. There was nothing bright and glittery, and there were no balloons.

One day, David asked Margaret, “When’s your birthday party?”

Margaret said, “This Saturday, at home.”

She invited all her friends, and meanwhile said nothing to her mother, who had already declared that until the financial situation improved there were to be no more luxuries.

Saturday came, and with it all the invited children plus their mothers went to Margaret’s house. At half past three, Jenny got up from her cosy armchair on hearing the doorbell, saying to her husband, “Are you expecting someone?”

Eric looked up from his car magazine, and said, “No, I’m not. Are you?”

Margaret was upstairs in her room waiting for the storm to burst.

Jenny opened the front door, “Er, what’s going on here?”

The mothers all dressed up, and their children too, stood staring at Jenny who was wearing a track suit and was standing in the doorway and staring back at them. Margaret was able to hear the exchange of words between her mother and the other mothers.

“Don’t tell us you’ve forgotten that it’s Margaret’s birthday party?” Lucy said in astonishment.

“Margaret isn’t having a birthday party. Her grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins will come round tomorrow for sandwiches and cake.” Jenny replied.

“Then why were we asked to be here this afternoon for a party?” Sally and Sophie asked.

Jenny shrugged her shoulders, and said, “I really can’t say. I’m sorry you’ve come round for nothing.”

“We shan’t be giving her any presents now,” declared Lucy, who turned away from the other mothers and got into her car and drove off with Brian, who hadn’t understood anything of what had taken place.

In a short time not one of the parents’ cars was left outside Margaret’s house.

Jenny stomped upstairs to Margaret’s room and marched in. Margaret was lying on her bed, happy with the results of her deception.

“What was all that about?” demanded Jenny. “You’ve made me look a fool.”

Margaret replied, “You’re tight, they all have parties and I can’t invite anyone to a party on my birthday. Now everybody knows how mean you are.”

Jenny was devastated by her daughter’s words, coming from such a young girl. Later that evening, when Margaret was in bed, she said to her husband, “They must get these ideas from the television.”

Little did they know that there was more to come.

 

Heather’s family was in dire straits, and any money they had was spent on material possessions. Heather was supposed to appreciate that the home came first. The kitchen was a work of art with the largest fridge and washing machine and tumble dryer. Everything was the best although the family was really very hard up. They ate terrible food and never had any goodies. The only time Heather had ever had jelly was at her friends’ birthday parties. The holidays were spent looking around shopping centres for the newest gadgets or furnishings.

Margaret and Heather were fed up with their families and the lack of nice things. They decided to get money, no matter how, to be able to treat themselves to something they wanted. Margaret saw her grandmother’s handbag open and her purse inside, so she took some money out of it, closed the purse and went upstairs with her first illegal takings. Margaret told Heather, who relieved not only her grandmother of money, but any other relative who visited.

The two girls went to a shopping centre with their ill-gotten money and counted it. They certainly had more than enough to be able to enjoy themselves, and eat all they wanted of the good things, and buy a present too. In one burger bar, they told the girl behind the cash desk that it was their birthdays. “Here you are then,” and they were each handed a gold-painted paper crown. They each took a special little box of kids’ menu to a table, and sat down with the rest of the Saturday afternoon children out, without their parents.

“This beats having a party at home,” Heather said to Margaret.

“It certainly does,” Margaret anwered. “We can buy all the lollipops and balloons we want.”

 

During the time Heather and Margaret were on their illegal spending spree, several things were being commented on in their families. Margaret’s grandmother was convinced that money was disappearing from her handbag. As she was a pensioner, her living allowance was limited, so she knew how much money she carried on her. Heather’s grandmother and her aunties said that money didn’t go anywhere and vanished in a flash. Lucy had seen both girls on the decisive Saturday afternoon in the burger. What Lucy found strange was that there were no adults with them. Was it possible that their parents, or at least one of their parents, was shopping, and had let them eat alone? Lucy thought it wasn’t good parenting to do that. Anyhow, Lucy said nothing, not after the business with Margaret’s non-birthday party.

 

Little by little, Margaret and Heather became more daring, and as they grew older, even when their parents were both working, they preferred to dress themselves without parting with money. Through one of their criminally minded friends, they managed to get a gadget that removed the alarms attached to the clothes. Neither set of parents commented on the daughters’ expensive clothes, comforting themselves with the thought that they bought them with their pocket money.

When things got a bit dangerous, the two girls were savvy enough to avoid the shopping centres and spend their Saturdays indoors on their laptops.

 

On occasions when a young person is accused of thieving things, television and schools are the first to be blamed.

 

Not the family.


© Copyright 2020 Georgina V Solly. All rights reserved.

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