By Ethan Anderson
Cold, cold wind hits our faces as we close the heavy front door of the condo – unprecedented, unusual freeze in the dim sun and early light of a new Seattle day. My son Damian is 2 years old and holds a “Super Bowl XLVIII” helium balloon, brown and shaped like a football. He clutches the string and insists on taking his floating companion around with him, the one given to him at the Super Bowl party, the Super Bowl where our team won, finally, the one that made Seattle seem fresh and novel, the one that made me feel whole and valid somehow. The Super Bowl where I cried when I saw the TV screen and our team’s winning confetti littering the playing field because I couldn’t find another way to express how many years I had stupidly taken all these Seattle sports losses personally, like it was a reflection of me.
But Damian didn’t notice this, only the balloon, insisting we take it home with us – take it everywhere. He calls it his “boon” in his high raspy little voice. “Hold on to it or it will fly away,” I tell him. He carefully walks down the front steps, his steamy breath can be seen in quick little bursts, one foot in front of the other, his fist gripped desperately tight around a flimsy ribbon string connected to that brown balloon that shows no team colors or team preference, as if the Super Bowl itself supersedes either team.
Football has rarely been kind to the Northwest, more of a massacre in the damp backwoods than a victory on a glistening green battlefield. Perfect martyrdom for the passive aggressive Northwest that feels bad for losers rather than celebrating winners.
But Damian doesn’t care about this. He leads his balloon around the corner hedge which is still frosty from the night’s endurance with the elements. The car is just beyond, saved from the bitter frost by the cover of the garage, parked there since Super Bowl Sunday night when there was great rejoicing on these streets in true Ballard, Northwest style – waiting for the walk sign before dancing in the streets.
We had been there, too. A serene and sleepy Damian on my shoulder, we trudged into the melee, father and son among drunken sports fans who had blanketed the city like a tidal wave of Budweiser, beads, goatees and team gear and colors. All in blue and green colors that, truthfully, do not appear in nature. Unusual colors patented for our new-look team to accompany a logo of a seemingly violent bird that also does not exist in nature. A new bird, voracious and defense-minded and not beautiful.
Then again football is not a beautiful game, at least not until now. But Damian doesn’t know this. All he knows is that his “boon” is magical and floating along, full of helium, now a trusted and exceptional friend.
We open the garage door and Damian enters, his balloon following him, like a loyal Labrador retriever. As the garage door reaches completion, a gust of wind hits inopportunely and Damian loses concentration and loosens his grip on the balloon. I can see the wind suck the defenseless balloon slowly from his finders into the frigid outside. I am too far away to save it.
Damian cries “get it, get it” as it ascends to 10 feet, to 20 feet, to 100 feet, to unspeakable heights. Taken away by the Seattle wind, the crisp, cold and unseasonable weather, the Super Bowl balloon is at record height and I kneel next to my son and watch as it climbs, unnamed and unbiased into the clean slate Seattle sky. Alone, but it is suddenly free of the clutches of Damian, free from the past, free from the history, free from my silly football insecurities, effortlessly watching over the Seattle sea of bearded fans with their now-groggy eyes, watching over the Budweiser cans empty and smashed into the pavement, watching over moms still dressed in Beast Mode jerseys, watching over the hundreds of thousands Seahawks downtown paraders, watching over passive aggressive Northwesterners, watching over Seahawks revelers who nursed hangovers going back to work, watching over newspaper headlines that slowly moved to new topics, watching over well wishes, phone calls and hugs between friends that will now become more infrequent, watching over sports radio pundits’ ceaseless chatter dying down and watching over my 2- year-old Damian and his bright, sweet little brown eyes, staring back at his “boon” in the new Seattle morning.
Ethan Anderson is a local musician, essayist and journalist
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