Whoever decided that children flying kites is a fun and healthy way to spend an afternoon is probably currently sizzling on the same special rung of Hell as stereo instruction authors, tax auditors, and people who put the toilet paper roll on the wrong way. Several years ago, obviously participating in some mass delusion caused by excessive Mary Poppins, I decided I’d buy kites and fly them with my then very small nephews. I purchased super cool Star Wars and SpongeBob varieties, captured the kiddos and Stadler (my loyal, but intellectually challenged, Black Lab) and walked down the block to the local park. It was a gorgeous day – sunny, with the perfect amount of wind. I was sure that I would cherish the children’s delight for the rest of my life.
Approximately two minutes into the adventure, both kids and the dog were hopelessly tangled in the string. The children were sobbing and struggling, getting even more snarled. Stadler just sat there, tongue lolling out the side of her mouth, waiting for me to save her. It took nearly twenty minutes to set everyone free, mainly because children can’t hold still for more than a nano-second unless they’re hypnotized by Doc McStuffins. It didn’t help that Stadler kept bringing us sticks, which in turn got interwoven with the kids, kites and string, and then had to be tugged out by the puppy.
Finally, after chewing through some of the more difficult parts, I got both kids loose. They ran away to play with the dog, leaving me with haggard bits of kite line which I tried to roll neatly back on to the spools. As soon as I got one cleaned up, Jovanni begged to try again.
A strong breeze crept up as he began his ungainly run, and his kite sailed into the sky, soaring with the grandeur of an eagle.
“JOJO!” I yelled, excited. “IT’S FLYING! YOU DID IT!”
Jovanni stopped, turned to look up and promptly let go of the string. The freed kite continued its graceful ascent, drifting out of the park and over the horizon, far out of reach. The world hung from a single strand of gossamer, and then dropped as Jovanni’s mouth turned from an ‘O’ of astonishment, to a howl of unbridled, inconsolable despair.
“It’s GOOONNNNE! MY KITE IS GONE!!!! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”
Avery saw his brother’s anguish and joined in, crying in sheer solidarity. Stadler brought him a stick, but it was no consolation.
That was it. I quit. I gathered up both children, hooked Stadler to her leash and started the horrible trudge home, cramming the tattered remains of the SpongeBob kite in the first trashcan we saw. The children marched slowly, bawling like they were off to eat sand in the gulag rather than walking one block to their grandmother’s house where they would get cookies and juice while watching cartoons. I vowed never, ever to fly a kite with children again.
Cut to this summer. The boys were visiting, and the Rev had spent quite a bit of time and money trying to find healthy activities for them. The day they arrived, I walked into my parents’ house and Jovanni ran up to me clutching a suspicious bundle.
“AUNTIE! GRANDMA BOUGHT ME A KITE! CAN WE GO FLY IT?!?”
“Not right now, buddy. Let’s wait until we go to the beach.” I told him. I grabbed the Rev and said, in a hoarse stage whisper, “What the Hell, Mom! You know what happened last time.”
“Ohhh,” she tittered. “I forgot about that.” For the record, the Rev has the memory of an elephant who grazes solely on gingko biloba. Revenge is a mother – more specifically, my mother.
I avoided the kite flying until the boys’ last weekend. The G.P. and I were slated to cover a Dog Surfing event at Horace Caldwell Pier and decided to take the kids with us. Jovanni saw his opportunity. Getting good pictures of dogs surfing isn’t the easiest gig in photojournalism. Essentially, you have about two seconds between when the animal gets on the surf board and when he falls off. Those two seconds should be used for adjusting your zoom and focus, but in our case they were occupied by a kid screaming bloody murder while brutally dragging a kite down the beach.
Jovanni lasted a good ten minutes before he got the string horribly tangled. He handed me the mess, begging me to fix it and then ran out into the surf to Boogie Board with his grandfather and brother. I sat in the sun, painstakingly untying knots for an hour. I had adopted the policy of not carrying my trusty knife with me after Avery found it in my purse. “Look what I can do, Auntie!” he cried, brandishing the open blade. The Rev’s luxury kite string was too tough for my teeth. I was angry.
Finally, I finished. The line was neatly rolled back onto the spindle. The G.P. appeared and announced it was time to load up. We had brought an incredible amount of crap with us – chairs, umbrellas, an entire Holiday Inn’s worth of beach towels, enough fruit snacks to feed Mongol horde, endless bottles of water, vats of sunscreen and bug juice, phones, cameras, wallets, glasses (reading and otherwise), a travel radio, beach toys, boogie boards – all of which had to be lugged back up to the truck. “Boys, you’re going to have to carry your towels and ONE OTHER THING each, okay?” I said, as I loaded three wooden chairs onto my back. Avery complied, grabbing a giant sack full of water bottles and his boogie board. Jovanni whined and grabbed his kite, which he drug behind him, letting loose the string, immediately snarling it.
“JOVANNI BAIR,” I exploded, “IF YOU TANGLE THAT KITE STRING AGAIN, I SWEAR BY EVERYTHING HOLY I WILL NOT FIX IT. PICK THAT UP RIGHT NOW!”
Jovanni picked up the tattered kite and ran to the truck. We fastened everyone in, and started down the road. Small sniffling sounds crept from the backseat, growing increasingly louder as the adults pretended not to notice. Finally, the G.P. asked what Jojo was crying about.
“Auntie said she won’t ever fix my kite ever again,” he wailed, sobbing pitifully.
At that very moment, I developed a new theory about the etymology of the phrase, “go fly a kite.” I’m pretty sure it really just means, “Go [redacted] yourself.”
At least that’s what it meant when we got home and I said it to my mother.
Jovanni was fine. He never mentioned his kite again. The Rev reports that she threw it out yesterday.