Kites

By Jerry D. Haight


It was a perfect day for kite flying. The sky a deep blue. Billowing cumulous cauliflower like clouds floated on an invisible layer of air between the earth and a high band of rippling cirrocumulus clouds that seemed to stretch forever. It was the kind of day one would lay and gaze hypnotically at the ever changing panorama unfolding in the stratosphere, soak up the warmth and just celebrate life. A gentle breeze blew inland from Narragansett Bay on the north side of Rhode Island, bringing with it the vibrant and invigorating smells of the sea. Some children romped with their parents, others road their skateboards perilously near disaster as they traversed pipe rails, stairs, curbs or any other obstacle presenting a challenge while in the background the magical sound of a Del’s Frozen Lemonade truck promised an unforgettable lemony treat locked in crystals of  ice. But we were there for another purpose.


The day before, Ben, 7 and Nick 5 manipulated a large kite from their grandfather. It was a gorgeous thing of beauty. And while quite large shouldn’t have posed any problems in assembly or flight after all, millions of kids of all ages from all over the world flew kites and, surely this college graduate, software engineer, accounting guru and business magnate should be able to do it, and, of course, easy to read instruction about assembly and flight were rolled up in the folds of the kite. Then there were the parting words of encouragement of the salesman as he rung up the sale, “anybody can do it”.  Pressure began to mount as soon as the door to the kite shop closed behind us. It continued as we drove to our vacation home in Rhode Island. “Can we fly the kite now?” was the mantra which repeated itself over and over the rest of the day, they were the last words uttered after “good night” and with the sun barely in the sky the next morning, they began again and continued unceasingly until finally, it was time.  


Two pairs of bright sparkling wide eyes watched intently as their hero began assembling their prize. Thankfully, it wasn’t very long before they disappeared, their interest captivated by something else. It was a good thing, too, because what followed probably was not suitable for young tender ears.


A basic knowledge of mandarin would have clarified the notion that the “detailed instructions” were really nothing but packing consisting of Chinese newsprint. Then the differences between the oriental and occidental mental methodology became apparent while deciphering the tiny page of diagrams. The occidental mind just does not make sense of a stick figured geisha flying a kite. Nevertheless, somehow the fabric, metal sticks, plastic joints, string and wire took shape, looking somewhat like the picture on the kite box (however it was discovered it was a different model, color and style from how the box pictured it. Oh well. Then came attempts to fly the kite. By the diagram, it looked like the flyer ran with the wind, towing the kite behind chanting something like “fly baby fly”. That didn’t work. Another diagram showed two people holding the kite while a third person held onto the string.


What was supposed to happen next wasn’t quite clear. Our “two other people” were no where in sight so two skateboarders were shanghaied to assist. As soon as the distance between us was equal to the amount of string coming with the kite, one of the holders shouted something about a tail. Laying down kite and string, a conversation ensued wherein the two insisted that kites do not fly without tails. Surely if a tail were required, the kite salesman would have mentioned it at the store but this issue became moot when the two kite experts gave up and departed with their skateboards. Alone with the kite; no instructions, diagrams or experts, a rather remarkable thought began formulating as Ben and Nick came into view.


These precious kids came neither with instructions, diagrams nor even a picture on their package. Their designer created them, building within the potential to learn, experience, grow, adapt and develop into what they would become. Just as the kite came with the innate tendency to soar, so with these children came the potential to soar as human beings. With this thought in mind and barely holding on to the string, I let the kite choose its direction and with very little pressure, allowed it’s design and the prevailing wind determine its rate of assent. Amazingly, the kite began to soar with very little effort as it responded remarkably to the slightest tug on the string. The disciplines of college, management and accounting teach lots about controlling and making things happen but that day, a kite and two kids taught about allowing and letting.


Then, with the kite almost out of sight and it’s string invisible against the clouds it was apparent bringing the kite in might take the rest of the morning. I suddenly began hearing another mantra. Something like “Grandpa, please buy us a Del’s”.