As I hurried through Walmart on the way to the shampoo aisle, a sliver of Mylar caught my eye. I slowed my cart, the bold faces of a legion of superheroes stared back at me from a display of $1 kites. A Mary Poppins memory tugged at my heart, and although February was too cold (but properly blustery) for kite flying, I tossed two kites into my basket.
Near the end of every boardwalk, past the detritus of French-fry stands, salt-water taffy houses and tacky T-shirt shops, there is always a kite shop. The one I remember best was a broad-faced shingle building, weathered silver by the sea air in Rehoboth. Every day 20 or so fancy kites, tethered to stakes, looped and danced outside the front door. The store had skylights and high, arching windows that let in the light, so I could gaze up at the kites and imagine them cutting across the clouds with ease.
For a while, during my childhood, my father was really into kites. Every year, we would visit that kite store, and I always wanted a fancy kite for myself. My father had one — a double-stringed trick kite that always reminded me of a sparrow with its curved wings and forked tail. I wanted a box kite, or a rainbow colored butterfly kite with a holographic tail. I ached to feel the tug of the string in my hand as I watched my kite sway in the breeze. But my father never bought me one, because I couldn’t ever keep them in the air. He would launch the kite and get it flying well in a strong, steady stream of air, and then pass the controls to me. As soon as my hands touched the strings, the kite would shudder, the wind would die, and the beautiful sparrow would plow into the sand.
Charlie Brown had nothing on me.
This year, the Fourth of July dawned clear, warm, and breezy in Bethlehem, PA. The children had been watching Mary Poppins and, with songs about kites ringing in our ears, we set out to a nearby softball field to try our luck at launching our superheroes. My husband and the boys had no trouble getting their kites fluttering high above us, but my youngest son soon lost interest and turned the controls over to me. With just a quick toss, my kite soared into the blue, trailing mile-long red streamers, and I was finally dancing in the wind.