Kite

March 30,2009
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath( )

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

Do you see that? The kite There in that blue, blue sky--that teeny, tiny thing? Of course you can't see it. That's L.'s kite. There's a reason you can't really see it. This isn't, as L. keeps reminding me, a happy tale. ********* Parents learn pretty quickly that when you do anything involving children the situation can unravel faster than you can blink your eyes. We've all been there: you go out to a restaurant and all is fine and dandy for about twenty minutes but before you know it there's spilled lemonade everywhere, or an overturned dish of spaghetti. We've all taken kids to one too many stores, or kept them out past naptime or bedtime, and then again, before you can blink, you're that crazed-looking parent rushing your cart through the store, a screaming child tucked under one arm. On Sunday I decided we should make use of the warm weather, clear skies, and blustery March day and go kite flying. I also decided we should bring the dog, and way too many other things we should have left at home. And everyone else in our city had decided a day at the park was just what they needed, too, so we couldn't find good parking and had to park what seemed like miles away. Scott had a tennis match scheduled, so he followed us to the park, and set us up on the field where all the kite flying people go when it's windy. "Are you sure you can handle all this?" He asked me skeptically, after we'd tied the dog up to a sign nearby. I waved him away. "Of course I can! Piece of cake. Go play tennis." He still look worried and I laughed to myself. Piece of cake, I thought again as he walked away. The dog? Kids? Kites? Tote bags? Camera bag? Soccer ball? Twenty-minute walk back to the car? Of course! I could do it ALL. It would be great. And it was--for awhile. T. made friends with some other kids nearby and she happily kicked her soccer ball up and down. L. got the kite up quickly and I stood in the warm spring sun, chatting with a grandmother who was visiting from Florida. When I looked up again, though, I saw that L. had gotten the kite really high in the sky. I mean really high. I have this thing about kites flying up too high. I get a panicked, anxious feeling when I see them so far up. I used to get the same feeling when I'd lie on my back in my parents' backyard and stare at the stars in the sky. I'd feel dizzy, untethered, panicky. But as I headed to L. to tell him to pull in the kite, a gust of wind blew the spool right out of his hand. The rest is a blur: it involved L. running like mad--faster than I've ever seen him run--across the field and away from me, after the kite. It involved my trying to grab T. while trying to figure out how I could possibly catch up with L. It also involved, thank goodness, the kind grandmother who leaped into action and offered to stay with T. while I ran after L., who by that point was so far away I couldn't see him any more; talk about your panicked, untethered feelings... The kite was gone--the kite we bought in Kitty Hawk four years ago--the old faithful one that always flew, no matter what. When I finally caught up with L. he was in tears and surrounded by a group of concerned strangers who thought he was lost. The spool was caught in one of the towering pines that the Carolinas are so known for (they are spectacular, unless your kite gets caught in one) and the kite was still high in the sky, flying itself, actually--or, rather, the tree was flying the kite. It took about an hour to convince L. that there would be no retrieving the kite, and all the while the kite flew on, high above us, swooping and dancing, its multi-colored tail swirling like a rainbow wake on water. It was a long, tearful walk back the car. It didn't help that I had to give T., who developed a raw blister on one foot, a piggy-back most of the way. Did I mention the tote bag? And the dog? And the fact we parked miles away? "I'll never own a kite again," L. said fiercely through his tears. "Or if I DO, I'll NEVER fly it." We paused at the top of the flat ridge and looked back. We could just see the kite, still flying, a tiny speck dancing in the wind. I wanted to feel only sadness for my poor droopy kids, but at the same time there was something completely beautiful and purposeful about the way the kite flew, a dot against the blue sky--one final brave flight into the sky, but the best one I think, the kite has ever had.