Up, Up and Away: Lessons Learned in the Clouds

by Stacey Marcus

The genesis of the idea was as sweet and breezy as the day we drove up from Boston to Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu by way of Burlington, Vermont. My husband, Mitch, had always dreamed of floating in the clouds on a hot air balloon and serendipitously stumbled across  the International Balloon Festival of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu  near Montreal. An extended weekend in Canada seemed a great idea for an end of the summer family trip.

We were invited to ride in the VIP specialty balloons and excitedly anticipated floating in the clouds and seeing the world from an aerial perspective. As we drove into Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, we saw the colorful balloons dot the skies, a rainbow of colors and sea of shapes  delighting spectators lining highways and fields.

As we stood in the VIP section watching 150 balloons travel to the heavens, we were introduced to our pilots who explained that the specialty balloon protocol. After all the balloons were launched, they would evaluate whether our balloons could travel to the sky as the weather conditions were not ideal for the specialty balloons and time was running out. A spontaneous surge of stress spilled onto the field as we awaited the pilots decision.

The long-awaited ride to the sky quickly went south as time ticked by, the balloons sat on the ground, one daughter went to the ladies room and the other began to spiral. Out of nowhere the pilots announced we were leaving and everyone sprang into action. Emily and I went up in one bee-shaped balloon and Mitch and Rachel tumbled into the other.

Soon we were high above the town of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu in a basket propelled by propane. As the temperature rose to ten zillion, I felt a sudden kinship with a steak tip on a grill and nervously searched the sky for the other bee that I assumed was by our side. I looked down and saw a yellow spot grazing treetops as our pilot apologized into the walkie talkie. Seems like the bees would not be buzzing side-by-side and I listened to the pilot talk to the chase crew, I realized that 7 minutes into the flight, we were preparing to land.

“Don’t worry, it’s like falling off a four-foot table,” said our pilot which naturally gave me a boost of confidence since just the day before I had nose dived off credenza for practice. As we approached the mosquito infested field, I surrendered to my destiny and fell into the dewy grass with a surprising grace. The bevy of volunteers stormed the field (sans music) with such purpose that I momentarily thought there may be injured soldiers among us.

Soon we were on the bus back to the festival slightly sweaty and silly, bidding adieu to the dream of our Zen-like ride in the sky and writing the latest chapter in the wonderfully imperfect story of our family travels, the never-ending tale I treasure.

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Stacey Marcus is a Massachusetts-based writer, PR guru and observer of life.

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