All We Needed Was a Dollar and Some Wind
Reflections on the singular joy of flying a kite
No, we were not out frolicking on a family vacation this spring break. Instead, like many families around the world, we stayed local and made the best of it.
My fourteen-year-old daughter signed herself up for a one-week golf clinic to learn the basics; she was masked, outdoors, with social-distance guidelines in place — the whole drill. I’d been relegated to my role as her chauffeur, something I happened to relish after a year-long absence of extracurricular activities.
For a week straight, we drove twenty minutes away to a public golf course near a marshy recreation area. And each day, upon entering this nature preserve, we passed a unique sign that read, “Kite Flying Area.” I was intrigued each time we drove by it. In all my years, I had never seen a public sign indicating a space designated for this particular use.
One morning, when we passed the sign, I turned to my daughter and suggested we try it. At noon, after her pick-up, I arrived with kites purchased from the Dollar Store. (A bargain, to be sure. And I bought five extra spools of string, just in case.) We pulled into the field and assembled our kites; we crisscrossed the skinny sticks, threaded them, tied on the plastic ribbon tails, and attached the small spool of string with its red plastic handle.
The kites had the quality of garbage bags, but my daughter seemed pleased with the peace-sign decoration emblazoned on hers. A few other families were already on the field picnicking and flying their kites, with a few solo diehards mixed in. It proved to be a reliably pleasant (and safe) shared experience — the consistent breeze and fresh air was a boon to our spirits.
We spotted a few ornate nylon kites of various shapes and colors — a dragon, an eagle, an octopus — but the remainder seemed to be cut-rate kites like ours. I reflexively burst into “Let’s Go Fly A Kite,” much to my daughter’s chagrin. Lucky for her, no one could really hear me singing in the wind.
I hadn’t flown a kite in years, not since all four of my children were under the age of twelve. But I still remember that day vividly; although it was filled with other activities — swimming and building sandcastles on the beach, to name a few — what turned out to be the most enjoyable were the flimsy kites I bought offhandedly.
One of our kites was a particularly high flier — it caught an updraft and we extended the string as far as it would go. But my kids decided that it could reach even greater heights. We took the pre-wrapped string from each of the other packages and rolled it out until it was just a speck against the vast blue sky. After thirty minutes, the kids got bored, so we tied the handle to our beach chair and let the kite fly itself while we returned to our sandcastle.
A bemused lifeguard arrived shortly thereafter: “Is that your kite?” he asked.
We craned our necks, gazing hundreds of feet into the sky.
“Why, yes, that is ours,” one of my kids proudly answered.
The lifeguard curtly informed us that the kite, which was so far up that it was hovering over a nearby hotel across the street, was not allowed to fly over private property, and he cut the string with a pocketknife and let it go. My three older boys laughed; my 4-year-old daughter cried; and that was it.
This past spring break, more than ten years later, I was with my fourteen-year-old daughter enjoying similar amusements. Her kite caught wind quickly and easily; mine was a dud and just spun in circles before thrashing on the ground.
We promptly gave up on my kite and start adding string to hers, flying it as high as we could. After an hour, it seemed we’d had our kite-flying fix. But as we packed up to leave, we spotted a family just arriving to the kite field, settling in for a picnic.
“Would you like to take over for us?” we asked.
To the children’s delight, we handed over our kite, extended as far as the eye could see.
Cynthia Clumeck Muchnick is the author of several educational books for students and parents including The Parent Compass: Navigating Your Teen’s Wellness and Academic Journey in Today’s Competitive World (Familius/Workman, 2020). She has worked in college admissions, as an educational consultant, and a high school teacher. She speaks professionally to parents, students, teachers, and businesses on topics such as study skills, the adolescent journey, college admission, and the parent compass movement. She is thrilled to have finally written her own children’s book, too, that arrives in the spring of 2023. She resides in Northern California with her two teens, husband, and dog, Sprinkle. Her two grown kids that have left the nest live on the East Coast. They all plan to fly kites together when reunited this summer.
For more information about the author: www.cynthiamuchnick.com, www.parentcompassbook.com, The Parent Compass
Cynthia will be appearing on Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books later this year.