As we climbed over the fence into the field, the string almost got tangled in the barbed wire. I put my foot on the bottom wire and my hand on the middle one and lifted a space for you to get through. You were wearing I think, a little red parka and boots.
It was early spring. The field was furrowwed and last year's hay stubble stuck up in prickly clumps. The terrain was about as much as you could manage on your short legs. But you were determined and excited.My luck with kites hasn't been very good. When I was a kid, I could never get quite enough tail on them, or else there was too much, or never enough wind to keep them up, or after they would get up it wouldn't be long before they would start flailing back and forth like a wounded animal, and after a couple of swirls they would hit the ground and that would be the end of that.
But this time, for some reason, everything went well. Maybe being grown up and "in control" had something to do with it. Whatever the case, it seemed that the wind, coming from the northwest, was moving at a perfect pace and that there was just enough tail, torn from a box of rags Veloy's mother had stashed in Uncle Verdon's bedroom--a tail that, once the wind caught the kite, surged up like a rocket.
I let the string out as fast as I could. It slid through my fingers so quickly I had to be careful not to get string burns. The stick the string was wound around fell to the ground, where it hopped around like a Mexican jumping bean. For aminute it snagged in the hay stubble. I held the kite back while I untangled the string. It tugged at the line and climbed higher and higher.
Then, with the string clear out--two full rolls of it--we stood and watched the tiny cube of color that now flittered against the mountains and clouds. If you listened, you could hear the wind flap against it. whipping the tail and jostling it back and forth in a ritual dance of spring.
And then I let you hold the kite, even though I was afraid you couldn't. Your eyes were as big as saucers, your fingers as tiny as the petals of a flower. But you held tight, and I held onto you, not that I though the wind would take you, but just that holding seemed to be the right thing to do.
Somewhere in that moist afternoon in the damp furrows of Reed's alfalfa field, the wind got the upper hand. The kite climbed higher thatn I could control, and in a sudden gust the tension became too much, snapping the thin white string connecting us.
I felt a sudden anxiety, sparked not by my concerns about the kite so much as by your feelings, helpless to comfort the sudden disappointment you felt. It was as if in trying to give you bread, I had given you a stone instead.
We looked for the kite a long time but never found it.
I realize now there was no way to resolve your childhood sorrow, no perfect pattern, no matter how perfect everything might have gone that afternoon--or anytime, for that matter.
Strings snap. They are meant to. It is part of the business.
More often than not, kites break loose by the power of winds we never imagined were there--winds that carry them over the umbrellaed crowns of trees that rise beyond the edge of the field, over the furthermost boundaries of home and into the upper atmosphere of their own wild wanderings.
That is what makes them separate before the can finally become themselves. It is what tempts them to play the thin air of dangerous currents before settling, finally, back to earth--often in our own back yeard--on gusts of more conciliatory breezes.
Dennis Smith is an artist and writer living in Highland, Utah County.