Years ago I managed a stable/equestrian center in central Texas as a side job to my public safety career. I enjoyed it immensely, and someday I’ll return to a more agrarian setting. I have a dream to take in abused horses and let them live out the rest of their lives in peace. Wouldn’t that be amazing? But I digress. This is a story about stress bubbles, which I believe could bring world peace.
Back at the ranch (circa 1998), a woman who had been boarding her quarter horse mare approached me one evening to ask if she could skip the stable fee for a month or two. Now, a good boarder is valuable for a small stable business, and a client who has run into a bit of financial difficulty isn’t someone to simply throw off the property, horse and all, just because she got a little behind with the payments. Besides, she’d come to me with an alternative proposition. She, too, ran a business, and she offered to barter stable fees in exchange for two spectacular birthday parties for the boys.
She was in the bouncy-house rental trade, and she had a beauty of a line including a bouncy-house castle, a bouncy-house pirate ship, and a bouncy house…um…square. The boys were three and four at the time, and I thought it a grand idea to let the woman host unforgettable parties for each of them when it came their turn. A deal was struck.
Full disclosure: Neither boy remembers the parties.
The first party went fine, a sunny spring day full of promise and celebration. We held the second one in February, a day of cold rain and mud tracks to the bathroom. It's been over twenty years. Melissa tells me I still sometimes mumble about it in my sleep.
We had fun, but it was also super stressful. Children’s birthday parties are already high tension as a general rule, which is why so many parents walk around with sippy cups filled with Gray Goose and pineapple juice, thinking no one really knows why they keep sucking on Pikachu’s head. Add in two bouncy houses, with all the liability from potential fractures, and the deal I struck no longer seemed sound. Then the pump for the air-blow-up thing gave out, at which point the bouncy castle went as limp as a sock with holes at both ends. I’d horse traded and gotten a cracked-hoof, put-up-wet, bloated-belly nag with bad teeth.
I’d had it at the end of that day, and I recall there was discussion of boxed wine and/or of trying to learn which mushrooms growing out in the pasture were of the mellowing-out kind. We weren't confident we could tell the difference from the poisonous variety and reluctantly abandoned the idea.
That was when I spied the bubble containers we’d handed out as party favors. They sat in little blue and yellow bottles on a Batman table cloth (ripped and drenched hours earlier in the first of two rain showers), amidst the clutter of bent and leaking cardboard cups--the kind with the fold-out finger holder loops which are splendidly useless at a kid’s birthday party--spilled Hawaiian Punch, and one forlorn hotdog which would remain uneaten because it had fallen in the muck on the way to the castle.
On a whim—because by then I only had energy left for the one whim—I unscrewed one of the little blue bottles and blew a damn bubble. Because, truly, I’d had it, and blowing one stupid bubble seemed like something to do instead of stab the bouncy castle.
One bubble blow, that’s all it took, and I realized I was performing an act mesmerizing and calming by design. Half a dozen bubble lofts later, I’d ascended out of my little birthday party hellhole and felt like a dad once more.
I learned something that day. Bubble blowing is a superb way to blow off steam. The stuff worked so well I kept a bottle with me on the job for the next twenty-something years. Many were the days and nights I went out to the squad-car parking area and blew little, round rainbows until my anger and frustration ebbed. It got me through car chases, crack houses, death threats, murder investigations...and parenthood.
I am in no way disparaging wine or ganja, meditation or medication, monthly massage or weekly yoga. All I’m saying is blowing bubbles once in a while sure can’t hurt if you're about to explode. A bottle for every human being on Earth, I say. I bet we’d see world peace in less time than it takes to blow up a rubber castle.
Those of you who follow this blog know Melissa and I are about to be grandparents for the first time. We could not be more thrilled or excited. Soon I’ll take my son his first bottle of “dad bubbles.” He’s gonna need them.
Be well, my friends. Enjoy your spring.