The Thanksgiving Balloon

By Karen E. Hong

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    Robert sat on the swing in his backyard and stared at the overcast sky. It was a boring Friday afternoon, and he couldn’t think of anything to do. His best friends, Will and Jason, were visiting their grandparents over the Thanksgiving weekend. Robert didn’t have any grandparents. The juicy brown turkey and shimmering red cranberry sauce had been eaten yesterday. Oh, there’d be turkey sandwiches and turkey soup, but the actual turkey dinner was only a memory. Even the pumpkin pie topped with whipped cream was a thing of the past—Robert had polished off the last slice right after lunch. There was nothing to look forward to now but a long, empty weekend.

    Robert kicked at some of the leaves on the ground. The air was cold, and the sky seemed like a gray blanket above him. With his luck, it would probably snow too. As he stared at the clouds, he saw something red out of the corner of his eye.

    Turning his head, Robert saw that that something red was floating past the chimney of a house down the street. It was a balloon! A bright red balloon was floating lazily on the wind currents.

    Robert watched the bobbing balloon, fascinated. Forgetting the cold, overcast afternoon, he stood up and ran toward the balloon.

    The balloon drifted lower and lower until it was directly over Robert’s head. When he reached up to grab it, the balloon drifted out of his reach. He ran after it and jumped when he was directly beneath the bright object. His hand snagged the balloon’s short string, and he pulled it down. A bright red balloon was a wonderful thing to have on a gloomy Friday-after-Thanksgiving!

    As Robert ran his hand over the balloon’s smooth surface, he felt something strange. Turning the balloon around, he saw a label stuck to the side of the balloon. It read:


    • From Ethel Gazelle

    • Pine Crest Nursing Home

    • St. Louis, Missouri

    Robert had never received a Thanksgiving balloon before. And this balloon had traveled more than sixty miles! Why, his Thanksgiving weekend was turning out to be pretty exciting. Even if he didn’t have grandparents to visit like Will and Jason did, he had a Thanksgiving balloon.

    Suddenly Robert had an idea. Holding tightly to the balloon’s string, he raced home. Carefully he released the balloon in his room, where it rose slightly and hovered over his books and papers. Robert pulled off his jacket and hung it on its hook. Then he sat down, found a clean piece of paper and a pencil, and wrote:

    Dear Mrs. Gazelle,

    I found your red balloon on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Thank you for sending it. It traveled more than sixty miles to Union, Missouri, where I live. My name is Robert, and I’m nine years old. Would you like to be my pen pal? I never had a Thanksgiving balloon before. I like it very much.


    Robert Webster

    Satisfied, Robert carefully copied Mrs. Gazelle’s address onto the front of an envelope. Then he wrote his address in the upper left-hand corner. He folded his letter, tucked it inside the envelope, put a stamp on it, sealed it, and took it to the mailbox on the next block.

    Robert wondered if Mrs. Gazelle would write back. Maybe they could be pen pals for a long time. He could send her letters and birthday and Christmas cards.

    It would be almost like having a grandmother.

    Illustrated by Robyn S. Officer