I hate trying to fly kites. If you happen to be in the 2.4% of the population that can actually manage to get the stupid thing into the air, your reward? Straining your neck and eyes as a multi-colored parallelogram flies overhead. Wow, what a wondrous prize (eye roll).
Why the kite vitriol? It all goes back to 1988, when I was an idealistic, eleven-year-old, kite-flying wannabe. We were at our annual beach vacation spot and I had a green nylon kite, adequately named The Incredible Hulk, that I simply had to get into the air. Donning my short shorts and inappropriately high striped socks, I ventured to the shore at dusk. The breeze off of the ocean, coupled with my immense dedication, should’ve yielded immediate and gratifying success. It did not.
When I emerged back in the vacation rental home several hours later, covered in a heinous combination of sea spray, sweat, and sand, my dreams devastated, I began to understand the pain of shattered dreams—which, ironically, happened to be playing on the radio. I really, really hate that damn song. Thanks, one hit wonder Johnny Hates Jazz, for crushing my spirit.
“Where are your socks?” asked my mom.
“A long story,” I responded, defeated. “Somewhere out at sea, along with my hopes and dreams.” At a young age, I had mastered embellishment.
Several decades later, still never having successfully piloted a kite beyond 11 feet off the ground, I accompanied my wife and kids on a boardwalk stroll at our annual beach spot. We passed a kite store and my children, in unison, shouted, “We want a kite!”
I’d known this day would come.
“You want your dreams of a fulfilling life to die a gruesome death right before your eyes?” I screamed, flashing back to the obviously still open wounds of 1988. “You want your innocent childhoods shattered by a non-flying piece of nylon disappointment?”
“Yes,” they responded confidently.
“Your father doesn’t fly kites,” said my wife. “He has an issue with kites.”
“Kites have an issue with me,” I muttered under my breath.
Still, I couldn’t bear to see the disappointment on the faces of my kids, so I marched into that overly priced store, plopped down a ton of cash, and emerged with a magnificent, dream-crushing kite.
“Yay!” they screamed.
Off the boardwalk and onto the shore we trekked: two confident kids, an indifferent wife (she grew up in Brooklyn; there are no kites in Brooklyn), and me. This was going to be the day when I conquered the greatest fear of my time on earth or the day I reinforced the feeling of failure I’d carried with me for so very long.
I let enough string out of the kite and began running like the police were chasing me. The police were not chasing me. I just needed the extra motivation.
“Go, Dad!” screamed my kids. “You can do this!”
For a split second, I believed them. I was galloping like a young stallion, yearning to feel the wind in my hair. I had no hair, but that really is beside the point. I felt like an Olympic sprinter. That is, until I tripped over my own two feet and tumbled directly onto my face, landing in a hole some kid had tried to make a sand castle out of earlier in the day. Kids really should cover their sand pits when they leave the beach.
It felt like 1988 again. I arose from my sandy tomb, weary, but not defeated. With a fervor I had not felt before, I tried again.
The kite suddenly found a breeze and catapulted itself up, up, and away! I was doing it! I don’t know how, but I was doing it.
As we strained our necks and eyes to watch the show, the adulation from my family is difficult to describe, even for a humble writer of my ilk. I was finally in the 2.4%.
Never give up on your dreams, friends. You might lose your socks to the ocean, and concuss your head from a fall into a sandy pit, but you must persevere. Your family is depending on you.