How to Fly A Kite

The conditions have to be right- some wind, but not too much. They’ll need some guidance, how to hold the string, when to start running, how to let out more string. You’ll want to let them do it themselves, to build confidence. It’s a delicate balance; one missing element and the whole thing comes crashing down.

The second time we took the kids kite flying was a clear, crisp, cold day last October. Meazi had gotten a beautiful butterfly kite for her birthday that September. I had filled a crock-pot that morning with ingredients that would hopefully, miraculously form a delicious Chili Verde. There seemed to be a medium wind, strong enough for flight, but not too volatile for novice fliers. Steven assured me that we wouldn’t be gone long, and that it was safe to leave the crock- pot going, even with our very antiquated, faulty electricity. We bundled up the kids, threw the kite in the trunk, got traveler mugs of coffee, and put a bag of dried mangoes in the front seat, in case we got hungry.

We drove to a nearby park where we knew they had some large, open, fields. There was a group of men playing soccer on the front field, so we walked to the one at the very back. The artificial grass was soaked, and our jeans soon became muddied. Steven got the kite up and running. Meazi took a turn, an old pro by now, having perfected the art last January when she was, in her words, just a little girl. The kite soared, dipped, evened out, Meazi was running and laughing, Melese gazed up with big eyes, “Birabaro!” he cried (Amharic for butterfly). I took a turn while Meazi yelled out tips, “Run faster Mommy!” A feeling of joy surged through my veins, Oh yeah, I remembered, this is why people fly kites. I gave the kite back to Meazi.

I told Steven that I needed to get Melese a dry pair of pants as he had been sitting down to watch. The air was getting much colder, and the sun was setting quickly. I picked up Melese and walked the long way back to the car. I got him new pants and saw my forgotten coffee in the cup holder. I grabbed it, took a swig, and felt the warmth in my throat, still hot. “What a perfect fall day,” I thought.  I locked and closed the car door. As I turned around, Melese in my arms, I saw the kite, high in the air, indeed a beautiful, vibrant, birabaro. I looked for Meazi and Steven below. Instead of them I noticed a family of four, a man, woman, and a boy and a girl. “How great,” I thought, “Meazi is sharing her kite with another family”. I was frankly surprised that Meazi would share something that she treasured so much, (sharing, up until now, had not been her forte). I walked a little faster, eager to praise Meazi for her generosity.

As we got closer I saw that Meazi and Steven were nowhere near the kite. Meazi was sobbing, chest heaving, face soaked with tears. The kite was stuck in a tree, that family of four was not flying it; they were just staring at the spectacle of a giant butterfly tangled in a tree. The wind had really picked up now. The gusts were keeping the kite flying strong, the tree now its navigator. I looked at Steven, his face tense. “What’ll we do?” I asked. “We’ll have to wait for the wind to die down,” he said. Meazi was inconsolable. This wasn’t your everyday crying; this wasn’t the superficial crying of a kid not getting what they wanted. These cries were frightening, they came from a deep, deep, place. Two security guards came out. They had a tall white stick. I don’t know what they normally used it for. As they approached the tree, Steven mentioned to them that if they tried to use the stick to loosen the plastic blue handle, the wind would definitely take the kite, and that would be the end of it.
It was getting colder. Meazi could not stop crying. It was past dinnertime. Who knew what was happening with the crock-pot. Steven told me to take the kids home, and that he would wait there for the wind to die down. He was wearing shorts and didn’t have a coat. I could see that he was cold. “I’ll call you”, he said, “You can come back and get me later.” I told Meazi that we were going to go home, and that daddy was going to stay and work on getting the kite back. She was a mess. I managed to walk the length of the field again, and got both kids into their car seats. Meazi cried the whole way home, “My beautiful kiiiiiiite, my beautiful kite.” I tried to console her. I told her we could get a new kite. She said we didn’t know where Amy and Tunsi got that kite. I told her that I would ask them, that I would find out, and that we would get her a new butterfly kite. Her crying was reminiscent of the crying we heard from her in Ethiopia. It was from a deep place. I wanted to soothe her; I wanted her sadness to stop. It was supposed to be an easy, breezy day, full of light and wonder. Here we were instead, wails and tears, darkness falling, dinner burning. I got them into the house. I got them into their dinner seats. I dished out their Chili Verde. I put some rolls in the oven to be warmed, hoping that maybe the warmth of a hot dinner would somehow fill the place where the grief was emanating from. We had a few bites of food and my phone rang. It was Steven. “I’ve got the kite,” he said. “ Daddy has the kite!” I screamed. I told him we’d be right there. Meazi grabbed her coat; I got Melese bundled up again. I turned off the oven and put our bowls on the counter so the dog wouldn’t finish our meal.

Meazi was quiet on the way over. After an initial expression of glee, “Daddy saved the day!” she became quite quiet. I am not sure what she was feeling. We picked up Steven, kite in hand, the coolness of his body filled the car. We returned home, and sat down to finish our dinner. Steven told Meazi about all the kites he lost as a kid. He told her the first loss was the hardest. He managed to convey to her that the joy is found in the actual flying of the kite, and that the kite is indeed replaceable.

I spoke to my mom on the phone that night, I told her all about the kite and she said, “It was another loss for her.”
Sometimes a kite is just a kite, but sometimes the wind changes, and a butterfly can get caught in a difficult spot. As that continues to happen, we’ll just have to wait patiently for the wind to die down.
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