A few years ago, Scott and I went with our friend Mike to see a couple of our other friends in a play. It was in one of those theatres that are so far Off-Broadway they’re practically in the East River. We were late, so we ran in, not even stopping to grab programs, and sat down in the audience. The lights went down. And then they went up.
On the stage were several foppish dandies mincing about. “What’s this play about, again?” I asked Scott, who shrugged. They were wearing satin knickers and powdered wigs. We were led to understand that one of them was Benjamin Franklin. “Where are our friends?” I hissed at Scott, who looked as baffled as I was. The people on the stage were in France, which we knew because they said things like “Here we are in France.”* One of them spoke of the Montgolfier brothers, or maybe one of them was a Montgolfier? “The hot-air balloon,” he declared, scratching at his hosiery, “will be the invention of this century! Nay, of any century!”* It went on like this for some time. None of our friends were on the stage. I looked around us at the five or six other people in the audience. They seemed to be enjoying themselves. Then I caught sight of someone’s program. On the cover was the word “BALLOON.”
I can’t remember the name of the play our friends were in, but it was not “BALLOON.”
“Oh my god,” I told my husband, “we’re in the wrong theater.”
“Oh no,” he said. “Oh no oh no.” He whispered to Mike. Mike put his head in his hands. We looked at each other. We knew we couldn't laugh. There were only eight of us in the audience. The poor actors would see us laughing, and the poor actors did not deserve that.
Unfortunately, the one Monty Python sketch I know is “The Montgolfier Brothers in Love”, and in fact this is the only sketch whose lines Mike and I have recited to each other lo these many years (“Every time you sing a song, it is in some way obliquely connected with balloons ... everything you eat has to have ‘balloon’ incorporated in the title ... your dogs are all called ‘balloon-o’ ... you tie balloons to your ankles in the evenings”), and there we were in this tiny theater with the Montgolfier brothers right in front of us, preening as Benjamin Franklin held forth on the fall of Versailles. It was torture. Every time one of them boomed, "BALLOON!" I was sure I would lose it. We couldn’t just walk out (think of those poor actors!). And we didn’t know if there was an intermission.**
None of this is in any way related to the party our friends had for us last weekend, except that there were many balloons, although not the hot-air kind. We worried that Henry wouldn’t be entertained enough at the party, but the brilliant Emily, party co-organizer and the best babysitter/girlfriend Henry will ever have, borrowed Star Wars guys from a friend and then stuffed her home with helium balloons. Henry loved the Star Wars guys, natch, but then someone tied balloons to his ankles and all at once he was beside himself with joy. He was hopping and twirling and laughing maniacally as balloons bopped him in the face.
I felt kind of the same way, except without the balloons.
We could not have better friends.
(*Dialogue invented for illustrative purposes.)
(**There was. And we made a run for it.)