Fly, Fly Away: When Kites and Couples Collide
~Melissa Wiley, Families in the Loop
Kites, like us, possess the impulse to fly. Yet they’re grounded for most of their existence, gathering dust in the back of a coat closet amid the broken umbrellas. For all their poetry, kites also have a lethal streak. They’ve endangered my own life and those of many children trailing through Lincoln Park on a Saturday afternoon.
My relationship with kites began innocently enough, when I was 7 or 8 years old and my sister and I each received one from the Easter Bunny. Watching it ascend to the heavens, I ran up and down our driveway and let nature unwind the string at will. Then, within moments, my new toy hurled into the power lines and began strangling itself.
I panicked, recalling an old story about Ben Franklin, a surge of electricity, and a curly new hairdo. Skies were blue, however, and the coated electrical wires failed to produce any phosphorescent bolts of lightning. I was intact, but the kite’s plastic face, with the smiling bunny on the front, was torn into a hundred pieces.
What seemed like many lifetimes later, my husband and I purchased a kite in the shape of a boat for our third wedding anniversary. Unfurling the fabric, we discovered that this symbol of our love was hopelessly lopsided. It was an evil early omen from the kite gods, who perhaps frowned on my choice of kite, its nautical shape too ungainly for the air.
As we sat sifting through the grass looking for a weight intended for the ship’s bow, my husband decided that this would be an appropriate time to tell me that he had actually preferred a sleek, aerodynamic kite, not the absurdly maritime model I had selected. When I said this was news to me, he replied that he hadn’t wanted to embarrass me and or make a scene at the store. Those were fighting words. I took off running with the balsa wood boat kite toward the edge of the lakefront, determined to pitch myself over the edge and sail away in my little boat if it wouldn’t fly.
To both of our surprises, the kite careened gracefully on an invisible current. I willed myself not to hear any further instruction from my beloved life partner and eventually even let him take the reins. We steered our little ship into a nearby park, where we each enjoyed yet more success. Too much success, as we’d soon see.
A group of day campers, all wearing the same red and white t-shirts, paraded through the open space where I was confidently sailing my ship. Struck by the inflated sales navigating the tree tops, the young troupe stopped to watch her fly. Suddenly, out of nowhere, the winds swelled with rage. The Easter Bunny and some power lines skirting my old driveway were back for more.
My boat kite responded in kind, shooting its bow up and down like a twitching dagger. The day campers squealed and scattered like deranged dolphins, their fearless leader ran off to save herself, and I collapsed on the mound of grass beneath my feet, laughing so hard that I soon lost my grip on the kite. I left my husband to fish it out of a traumatized tree several hundred yards in the distance.
That was four years ago. When I was shopping online recently, a handmade Chinese kite with the face of a seething dragon illuminated the screen. Without a thought, I added it to my shopping cart and presented it to my husband when our anniversary rolled around a few weeks later. We laughed cautiously when he opened his surprise, knowing it could easily spell the end of a marriage that had survived another four kite-free years or, at the very least, empty our pocketbooks with a compelling suit for damages.
We’ll soon be outside again, watching nature and fabric intermingle in the city sky. Much as we’re tethered to the ground – and each other – sometimes we just can’t resist the impulse to fly.
The cute pic comes from this blog.