I learned early on, that being a terrific grandparent actually requires a great many skills and expertise in all kinds of varied areas. In the summer, I was called upon to be, not just a swimming instructor, but the chief architect of dozens of sandcastles constructed on sandy beaches as my granddaughter assisted with pail and shovel. In the Fall, I was a naturalist pointing out varieties of trees by the shape of the colored leaves that fell around us on hikes through the woods. Snowflakes of winter piled high, challenging the sculptor in me to fashion a host of icy snowmen or taking on the role of general, crafting strategies that would vanquish an oncoming army of snowball throwers. Spring was always my favorite. As the frozen ground began to thaw, temperatures rose, breezes lofted in the air, carrying visions of fragile kites drifting among the clouds.
One April afternoon, after watching a Mary Poppins video, my granddaughter Bria decided that we should go outside and fly a kite. The only kite on hand was one grandma bought last spring which was so battered from a useless attempt to get it airborne, it was retired. Despite its beat-up state, my granddaughter pleaded, and so a quick repair with a roll of tape and a plastic rod, and we were on our way to the park.
Bria attacked the playground equipment with the energy of a four-year-old and I happily assumed that she’d forgotten about the kite. No such luck. After twenty minutes of running, jumping, sliding, and swinging, she leaned on me, exhausted, and said, “Grandpa, I think I’m ready for my kite now.”
I reluctantly retrieved the spent plastic glider from the car, unwound a length of twine, and began to run, the kite bobbling behind me. Twenty, thirty, forty feet, and the kite barely moved. My granddaughter looked at me with total disappointment. I took a deep breath and raced across the thick, green grass, the kite in tow. The thing twisted and turned and swayed in every direction but up.
I squinted at the treetops. Not one single leaf was moving. Zero wind. With renewed determination, I flashed back and forth, back and forth, the kite bouncing on the ground behind me. For fifteen minutes I ran to every corner of the park. By now, so much sweat was dripping into my eyes, I nearly ran head-on into a spruce tree. My shirt was drenched, my calf muscles about to explode. My arms were aching, my head was starting to feel as high as…a kite…just not this one. Light-headed enough to faint, I turned back just in time to see the kite catch a freak burst of wind and…up it went. Gasping for a breath, I screamed, “Look. It’s up!”
Bria stared skyward, caught sight of the kite, and a grin spread from ear to ear. She laid on the ground, folded her hands behind her head, casually crossing her legs. I stood there puffing, feeling vindicated, triumphant. Then she said, “Now sing the kite song, Grandpa.”
“Kite song?’ I choked. “What kite song?”
“The one from Mary Poppins. Sing it, Grandpa,” she said matter-a-factly. I drew a blank. She was certain that I knew every kid song ever written and was truly disappointed as I fumbled to fake it with a handful of kite-rhyming words. “It’s so right to fly a kite…into the night…that…that… the clouds of white…will…will cause a fright that…”
“Not that one, grandpa. The other one. The one from Mary Poppins,” she called out. She stared at me…waiting, and I had nothing. Things couldn’t get worse. That’s when I lost concentration for just a split second. The kite dipped and wound up hanging on the telephone wires.
“My kite! You tangled it up,” she cried. Now I’m in for it, I thought. I’ll never hear the end of this one. As I shamefully lowered the kite down from the wires to try and untangle it, my granddaughter scampered by me with a giggle.
“Let’s play hide-and-seek, grandpa. I’ll be the seeker.” I breathed a great sigh of relief. Thank goodness, I thought. Thank goodness for the truly forgiving nature… and the very short attention span of a four-year-old.