The bus let us off at the mansion grounds, and we made our way to a nice, shady spot on the greens. We carefully laid out our heavy Mexican blanket - woven with blue, black, and cream. The boys were excited to sit in the wooden lawn chair that their Daddy had made so many years ago. They would giggle as they took their turns sitting in the chair. The picnic supper was laid out: hot dogs, watermelon, grapes, cheese, chips, blondies, and lemonade. We ate, watching the people mill about us as they made their way to their own spots. A band played music from the 80's and 90's in the back ground. It was the perfect accompaniment to a wonderful evening: the heat had dulled, the bugs were sparse, and the shade proffered from the great pine tree was so inviting. I sat back, soaking it all in. What a life we have been blessed with!
A friend walked by and my husband jumped up to greet him. We packed up our picnic and blankets to move closer to where our friends were sitting. A crooked pine tree half-way up the hill provided much shade, warm smiles and greetings from friends, as well as the perfect spot to watch the hot air balloons as they were inflated and eventually lit. My boys were delighted to find friends to chase around the greens, play ball with, and to laugh with. I sat fully back in my chair, my head resting on its high back as I took my surroundings in. The music was lively, so infectious that our friends started dancing. I watched them dance, song after song - as though they were the only two beings amid a sea of faces. Another friend joined in with his young daughters - dancing with his princesses and delighting them so. I raised my camera to capture these moments. Treasured memories... simple pleasures.
Dusk started embracing the horizon and all five balloons were fully aerated, standing proudly on center stage with the audience captivated by their grandeur. I raised my camera to capture the moment when all five balloons were illuminated. Although one balloon never fully realized its full potential, the sight of the four balloons glowing on the skyline enraptured us all. I stepped back, watching my sons clap their hands and stand amazed at the beauty presented before them. A cadence of flashes from would-be photographers surrounded me, adding even more magic to that very moment as their light sparkled from all directions. These elements all taking part in creating a very enchanted evening.
As we walked back to our car (in lieu of waiting in line to take the shuttle bus back), I reflected on the evening our family had just enjoyed. We are blessed with many gifts - too numerous to list: Joy, in the simple pleasures of life - like chasing your brother, glow-sticks fashioned into frisbees, and the satisfaction of popping a perfectly sweet grape in your mouth; togetherness - enjoying time with each other and with friends, making new friends along the way; laughter - dropped hot dogs, piggy back rides, singing along with the band (maybe a little out-of-tune), and escaped balloons climbing up into the heavens; and richness - knowing that no amount of money could replicate the idyllic evening, our family, or our friendships. As we loaded our packs into the trunk and climbed into the car, I peeked back at my greatest treasures - who had instantly fallen asleep. I watched them for a moment before taking my husband's hand and laying my own head back on the head rest. As I slowly closed my eyes, I said a grateful prayer - praising God for the abundant blessings in my life, too numerous to name them all ... but so very thankful for each one. Yes, I live a blessed life!