One, two, three and they were off, a hundred balloons drifting skyward, trailing streamers and address cards.
The nursing home residents looked up, watching the colorful spheres sail off. People who find the balloons are asked to mail back letters.
The Mother’s Day balloon release is a tradition dating back nearly two decades at Coeur d’Alene’s Pinewood Care Center.
“It makes them feel special, knowing that their name is on a balloon that someone might find,” said activities director Barbara Jones.
The ritual also brightens a day when some residents can’t be with their children, some of whom live far away. In some cases, mothers have outlived their children. The oldest mother at Pinewood is 102 years old.
“It’s terrible for mothers whose families don’t come to visit,” said Jones. “That’s where we take over.”
The nursing home had a party Sunday, with cake, cookies and an accordion player. Administrator Taylor “Vic” Wallner gave out roses.
“We want to make sure nobody’s left out of things,” he said.
Family members sat with some mothers; volunteers sat with the rest.
“Most of them have been here a long time and kind of accept the way it is. For many, the staff and the volunteers are like family,” said volunteer Margie Wadsworth.
Olive Williams, sitting with her daughter, was delighted by the celebration.
“It’s wonderful,” she said. Decades ago, she said, Mother’s Day wasn’t the big deal it is now. The sole celebration generally consisted of a roasted chicken dinner - cooked by Mom.
At 93, Williams is older than Mother’s Day. While she and her family were traveling in a wagon from Colorado to Idaho in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the second Sunday in May a national holiday.
Sunday’s weather put a bit of a damper on the balloon release. Rain collected on the balloons, making them sink back to earth. Visiting children ran around on the lawn, grabbing balloons. A passing bicyclist grabbed two balloons and kept going. Others fell on nearby rooftops.
“Well, we’ll probably get some letters from real close,” said Wallner. “Maybe a block away.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo