I will forever be impressed by the power of bubbles. Not long ago, during a family vacation in Washington, D.C., my husband and I found ourselves in a Metro train with four tired and crabby children on whom the wonders of a wealth of national museums and historical monuments all within walking distance of each other had been lost. They were in a whiney fidget and our patience was wearing thin. After a particularly sharp exchange, I looked up to discover the woman across the aisle from us take a small container out of her purse and begin to blow bubbles. They weren't just any bubbles. They were sturdy, long-lasting bubbles that landed on seats, and on heads without bursting, and that you could catch in your hands. Pretty soon, not only had the kids forgotten their misery, but so had we. And so had everyone else on the train. Suddenly, everyone was making eye contact and if not laughing at least smiling. It was bubble magic.
What is it about bubbles that is so entrancing? People have evidently been finding enjoyment in them for centuries. Maybe it's the way they gracefully float, so languid and light and free. Or maybe it's their iridescent colors, like little miniature rainbows that are always just within reach that captivates us. Whatever it is, they never last longer than a few minutes, yet their impermanence never seems to disappoint.
But now, there are bubbles that last longer than a few minutes, as the lady on the Metro train knew. And yesterday, I was lucky enough to come across some at our local toy store. The bubble solution, Catch A Bubble, contains glycerine to increase the surface tension of the bubble and extend its longevity. My kids were playing with it last night, and this morning there was still an intact bubble on the kitchen table, although most of the bubbles evaporate after ten or fifteen minutes. Our local toy store also had another bubble treasure for sale - edible bubbles (also available in Pez form.) The bubbles are much harder to blow - the atmospheric conditions have to be just right - but when they do form, you can catch them on your tongue or pop them in your mouth for a taste sensation. Double bubble fun.
But plain, short-lived bubbles are just as much fun as long-lasting bubbles or flavored bubbles, and can be had for a fraction of the cost if you make your own. Maybe we'll never understand what it is about bubbles that makes us feel happy and fine. Maybe it's just one of life's mysteries.