Everybody at the party was high.

I mean their voices were, from inhaling helium like Helen Mirren and Jimmy Fallon are doing in the YouTube video below. Be prepared to hurt yourself laughing.

I didn’t want to go to the party. I was newly sober. Facing life without the anesthesia I’d been used to for twenty years, alcohol, was putting me into system overload. At the time I didn’t think it was possible to even be at a party without drinking, since I hadn’t done it in twenty years. Most of all I didn’t see how it could possibly be fun. Then they brought the helium tank out and people went up and inhaled and talked, something I had never seen or heard. It brought the house down, me with it. I never laughed so hard.

The night of that party, thirty-two years ago, was the night I learned that life can still be fun without alcohol. In fact it’s infinitely more fun. I’m glad my friend Joanne, the hostess, forced me to go. She said I’d be surprised how much fun it would be, and she was right. When I saw her go up in her elegant cashmere and Levis ensemble and talk to us like Daffy Duck, tears rolled down my face and my ribs hurt from laughing.

At the end of the evening we all wrote notes on small slips of paper and stuffed them into balloons, then inflated them and released them into the night sky. There we were huddled together in the dark, sending our wishes and hopes and dreams and blessings out to the universe—like we do in life, I guess. I scribbled my fondest hopes of being a wonderful mother and competent provider, and more, in sobriety and stuffed them in and sent them up. When all the balloons had been released it grew quiet, and we stood together and looked up, watching the spheres of color get smaller and smaller until they disappeared, bringing our fragile longings and our passions far away with them, into the mystery of the night. We felt close to each other.

I’ve been to a lot of parties since Joanne’s, but never another like that. No more helium, no balloons bearing messages to the universe, no soliloquys in cartoon voice. That was my unforgettable party of parties, hands down. A great launch into my decades of sobriety.

Th-th-th-th-That’s All Folks.

WARNINGS (in light of what we’ve learned in the last thirty years). Do not release balloons into the atmosphere: they are hazardous to animals, which can choke on them and become entangled. Do not inhale helium, as it can seriously deprive people of oxygen and cause anoxia and other serious conditions.


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