In my lifetime, I had only one kite. It was bought for me when I was three years old.
My parents never had to buy another. That one kite was used for my entire kite-flying days.
At the end of Easter, I would put it away safely in the storeroom. The following year, I would take it out, to dust it off and set it to use again.
Kite-flying season in those days was not confined to the Easter weekend. It began, with makeshift kites which were called ‘caddy ole punch’ and which were raised even before the school holidays commenced.
Your special kite was always reserved for the Easter weekend. I only flew over the school holidays, because I did not wish to lose my one and only kite.
That kite saw a great deal of adventure. It has been torn and tattered. It cut loose many times from out of my hands. On one occasion, it flew off so far into the distance that I presumed that I would never find it back. Luckily, it ended up in the yard of someone who knew my family, and they returned it to me a few days later.
It was like the homecoming of a loved one. I was relieved to have it back. I thought I would not see it again.
The paper on the kite got damaged so many times from the constant flying that the frame had to be re-pasted. And so many of my friends presumed that I was among the fortunate whose parents bought a new kite every year. It was nothing of the sort. It was the same frame with different kite paper.
I mention this experience because in my time, children valued their kites. Part of the fun of kite-flying was to go in search of your kite if it had cut loose from the string on which it was held.
Sometimes, also, bullies would pick up your kite and refuse to give it back, and so you had to try to secure your kite as quickly as possible if it cut loose from your hands.
Today, I see so many kites around, some of them extremely creative in their design. But I do not see that great amount of pride in owning a kite, and this probably has to do with the fact that kites have become so much more affordable that most children now can afford to have a different kite each Easter.
Part of the fun in my time had to do with the trials of getting your kite in the air. This did not always go well and sometimes hours upon hours were spent in raising a kite. Yet, the kids of my time persevered and kept at it until their kite was in the air and “singing” away. All the effort was worth the while however.
Today, I have found that both children and parents are impatient. They want the kite to soar easily into the skies. They fail to realise that the fun in kite-flying is in overcoming the obstacles that are faced to get the kite off the ground.
And this is why kite flying teaches an important lesson. The construction of the kite is important. The shape of the kite and its balance in construction, as well as the length of the tail and the symmetry of the loop all are important in determining whether the kite will go up or not.
It is the same with life. We have to ensure that our values and our actions are set in the right balance, because it is this balance, which would allow us to soar towards our goals.
We also need, however, good conditions. We need wind and we need also to be able to make that effort to keep our kites in the air when the force of the wind drops.
So it is too with life. We need the conditions and opportunities to succeed, and when we are going well and hard times come, we have to work to ensure that we do not hit rock bottom.
Our kite allows us to fly and we need to care it. We cannot cast these aside after we enjoy our flying. We have to keep the kite for the next year. We have to value what we have and preserve it for the coming year.
These are important lessons for life that we learn from flying a kite. If the sole purpose of a kite was to rise without ever falling, to soar without effort, then those lessons would be worthless.
So the next time you look at your kite hanging in your storeroom, remember that kite-flying has similarities to life. By mastering the art of flying a kite, by finding the right proportioned kite and flying with the help of friendly external conditions, with a strong hand and keen eye, our kites can soar beyond all expectations. And so too can we.
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