It’s time to ‘go fly a kite’

Published 9:15 pm Tuesday, March 7, 2017

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The exhortation to “go fly a kite” has long been a gentle way of saying get out of the way, quit bothering me or go do something altogether useless.

Personally, I think the saying, as we use it, unfairly maligns kite flying, because there are few things more enjoyable than watching a kite soar and swoop on a breezy day.

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You rarely see children out in a field flying kites anymore. I guess one reason is that not many of them have access to open fields. There are public parks, of which we have a few, but gone are the days when children were allowed to wander from home in search of an open plain on which to fly their kite. Today, a parent must take the time to take a child to an open area, so kite flying becomes an event requiring family planning.

And if you do see kites being flown, they are generally the store-bought variety. I’m not knocking them. There are some really creative kites available today, and they are aerodynamically far superior to anything we had years ago.

But there is something to be said for making your own kite, as we often did. I recall getting a “kite kit” to compete in kite flying contests as a Cub Scout. A kit was pretty simple — two sticks and a ball of thin cotton twine. That gave us the frame on which to build a traditional diamond-shaped kite. The kite skin was usually newsprint, blank if it could be arranged, because on those white sheets we could create whatever art came to mind. Often though, as we built our homemade kites, we’d just use the newspaper’s front page or the comics for a sort of pre-decorated kite skin.

Strips of an old bed sheet formed the crucial kite tail, the steadying device that was supposed to prevent a kite’s death spiral. It had to be just the right length. Too short and the kite would spin out of control, too long and it wouldn’t leave the ground.

No matter how precisely we married kite to tail, though, there were inevitable accidents, most of them fatal to the flimsy kites.

All of us back then fully understood what Charles Schultz was getting at when he introduced us to Charlie Brown’s March nemesis, the kite-eating tree. We’d all been there. Few things were more upsetting than spending time building a kite — cutting and gluing, tying, adjusting — only to have our creation nosedive into the upper branches of an unforgiving oak tree.

So, here’s to kite flying. It is, after all, March, a time for spirits to soar, and what better symbol of a renewed spirit than a kite reaching new heights.