For me, the takeaway was the moment when my son, appointed to be the one to carry the helium canister to the car, announced, "Hey. Helium's light." That, along with the goofy smile on my wife's face after spending an hour and a half in the party supply store, was all the specialness I needed.
There was also the matter of the store itself. As we cruised up and down the aisles of the store with our shopping cart, picking this up and setting that back down. For every item we kept for purchase, we inspected at least a half dozen more. We had come, ostensibly, for balloons and streamers. We found those and so much more.
Our mission was to find things to dress up our house for my wife's fiftieth birthday party. We all had ideas, and when we couldn't find exactly what we wanted, we went in another direction because that was the way the place was laid out. It got me to thinking about the occasions of my life. Back when I was in college, I threw a lot of parties, and the one bit of decorating we ever did was the Bon Voyage banner that hung unceremoniously at one end of the living room of each of the apartments I lived in as an undergrad. It was my feeling that the sentiment conveyed by that one decoration would encompass just about any event or sentiment that we might need to express. "Bon Voyage, Old Year!" Farewell to your senses, "Bon Voyage, Brain Cells!" And so on. It never occurred to me that there could be so much specialty.
At the party store, there was an entire aisle devoted to baby showers. A third of it was there for incipient parents of boys, another third for those expecting a girl, and the last bit for those who felt that birth was a little too early to start impressing sex roles on their brand new person. There was another full aisle from which one could select all manner of wedding swag, including those who might be planning a bachelor or bachelorette parties. Around the next corner were decorations for birthday parties from one to one hundred, with the decades thirty, forty, fifty and sixty holding their own quiet significance and spot with racks full of plates, napkins and banners for that milestone. There were sections for retirement parties, fist communions, luaus, fiestas and occasions for which I could only speculate the significance.
When all was said and done, we spent far more than we had expected, but left with bags full of crepe paper and plastic that would transform our house into the party palace we had all envisioned. I made a mental note to return to this store when I felt my next life passage coming on, just in case there was a cake topper for it. Maybe they even had something with a Bon Voyage theme.