It was so windy that my tent flew away. In preparation for a night out camping, I was setting up our two-person tent for waterproofing on our porch when a gust of wind blew it right out of my hands and over the roof. In a mad dash down the three story apartment building, I found our tent flipped over in the back yard. Sometimes I think we just might live in a wind tunnel. Operation Tent a failed mission, I remembered that we still hadn’t used the kite we had been given from Derek’s parents during their move to Michigan when they were sorting through which belongings to pack. If it was too windy to set up a tent, it might be just windy enough to fly a kite.
Meet Frederick. He’s a brilliant three-dimensional firebird kite with an 84 inch wingspan designed for the young and playful at heart. He came to us in a tube with simple instructions to clip the end of the spool’s string to the bird and prop up his wings with fiberglass poles. I gave Derek naming rights since it was his childhood kite and the chosen name was Frederick.
My first thought was to fly Frederick in the open lawn behind our apartments but Derek didn’t like the idea of us flying our kite for the first time so close to the road and power lines. So we put Frederick in the back seat and drove to our favorite park, Sunset Hill Farm, just fifteen minutes away, where we could have an open field to run around and get this kite in the air.
It was still incredibly windy and while transporting the kite from the parking lot to the field, it seemed like Frederick was going to lift off at any moment! Derek held onto the spool while I walked backward until I was standing across from him approximately 50 feet away, as per the paper instructions. It was simple, pull the line tight and have a partner hold the kite above their head until it catches a breeze downwind. (Or so we thought). I actually don’t remember too many success stories flying kites in my life and there were a lot of trial runs as we tried changing positions, kite handlers, and simply running with the kite for lift off for a brief flight before it crashed to the ground again. We had to determine which direction was downwind.
Using the windmill and American flag as my guide, I stood with my back to the wind as my hair brushed into my face. This just had to be downwind! Derek backed up again until he was holding the kite above his head with the poles facing upward and Frederick’s colors pointed down to the ground. I felt a gust of wind coming and I quickly backpedaled while lifting the spool with the line pulled taut. Then, to our complete amazement, it actually worked! Frederick was riding the wind and soaring in the air. There was a little resistance on the spool and Derek called out for me to release the kite higher and higher. I had to gauge where the wind was coming from and keep moving so that I could keep the bird flying. Our first successful flight was going so well that we didn’t even realize our proximity to the tree line until Frederick had an unfortunate landing tangled in the lower branches of a tree. Derek was able to loosen the bird and unravel its streamers from the branches so that we could walk farther down the field and try again.
With more practice, we were able to extend the height and length of time that Frederick was flying. It came to the point where the kite was actually at the very end of its line and really picking up speed so that if I were to let go, Frederick might just take off! We took turns as kite handler, repeating the process multiple times with such amusement and enthusiasm that the geese overhead might have thought we were competing for their air space. We had done it! It was the perfect afternoon for Frederick, the kite bird, to glide the breeze.
Let’s go fly a kite
Up to the highest height!
Let’s go fly a kite and send it soaring
Up through the atmosphere
Up where the air is clear
Oh, let’s go fly a kite!
-Mary Poppins, Song by David Tomlinson, Dick Van Dyke, and Londoners