Since I was a little girl, trying to construct my own one-dimensional classically-shaped kite out of tissue paper and raw wood sticks, I’ve always been fascinated by kites. Kites were a bonding medium between my husband’s youngest son and me and I remember once taking a new boyfriend up on the hill to fly a kite after our first amorous encounter and actually, never seeing him again. I’m sure I’ve become the subject of one of his scornful “weird chick” stories.
Kites eventually evolved into more exotic shapes than those first fragile little assemble-it-yourself kites that came as paper and string tightly wound around a disassembled skeleton of unsanded sticks sure to provide a number of slivers during assembly. In my twenties, I bought a lovely cellophane kite in the shape of a jellyfish that actually traveled with me to Mexico twenty years later. It was the kite I’d sailed off the pier in Huntington Beach, in the sand of beaches near L.A. and from a campground north of San Diego.
I can’t remember what has become of it since I moved to Mexico eighteen years ago. Perhaps it is in a box somewhere or perhaps it eventually disintegrated and was thrown away, but my fascination with kites did not expire with it and so when I saw the kite vendor next to the road that runs between Ajijic and San Juan Cosala, I immediately pulled over, turned around and went back to examine the glorious three-dimensional fabric kites. They were in the shapes of birds of prey, dragons, fish, and other fanciful creatures. I chose a hawk and a dragon and bought both.
I couldn’t wait to get home and go up to my roof to fly one. Ground level at my house furnishes too many places for a kite to get tangled up in: bougainvillea vines, palm trees, roof tiles and phone lines. I went up the stairs to the second level terraza and unfurled the hawk kite. It was a windy day and it did not disappoint, but soon rose to the full extension of its string. Real birds occasionally circled around it, wondering no doubt what weird bird was this. But after a few minutes, when I looked down from the mesmerizing sight of my own kite hovering far above, I noticed in amazement a similar kite soaring high above my neighbor’s house down below.
Not one but two men were up on the high dome of their house flying a kite! Now I must say that I had lived in my house for sixteen years and had still never met these neighbors. There is an empty lot between us as well as high walls surrounding both of our properties, as is the norm in Mexico. Tall trees and weeds have grown up between us and they are just occasional weekend visitors to their vacation house. We share a gardener, Pasiano, and that has been the extent of our relationship for the now 18 years I’ve been residing here. But they seemed to spot my kite the moment I spotted theirs. I waved from my high perch. They waved from theirs, further down the hill. And I think we both felt a momentary sense of unity.
Since then, that kite has resided, rewound into a tight bundle, in my umbrella stand, along with its fellow kite, still a virgin and as a result, more tightly and professionally wound. I don’t know why I’d never thought to fly either of them since then, but as I was packing to go to the beach last January, my eye fell on the umbrella stand. No need for an umbrella at the beach, but a kite? Yes! I chose the more flamboyant red dragon kite. I would finally see it fully extended! The cord was stuck into the cellophane sheath that surrounded it–a flat plastic structure with the strong braided nylon cord wound tightly around it. Into my fully-packed car it went.
Once I arrived in La Manzanilla, the kite took up residence with my art supplies, sticking up out of a large plastic box that sat on the dining table bench behind the table, which was never used for dining but instead became my computer table and art center. There was much to do–greeting old friends, working on music for CD’s to go with my children’s books, writing groups and readings, planning art activities for friends, swimming, beach combing, dining, dancing, observing the nightly parades that streamed by my house, dealing with the all-night LOUD music from nearby bars, coping with the muffler-less motorcycles that streamed by my house at 3 in the morning.
It was a month after I’d arrived at the beach that my eye fell on my long-overlooked second kite. It was a nice windy day on the beach. I’d seen at least one other kite flying–something I’d never witnessed in the ten years I’d been coming to this relatively sleepy little town. Here were no high-rise hotels or swinging discotheques like the ones in Puerto Vallarta or Mazatlan. Here were little restaurants and night spots frequented by the ever-increasing number of American and Canadian writers, musicians, actors and artists who swelled out the population of the little town for 6 months of every year—those months before the humidity and heat grew too intense to bear.
So, finally, I took my wonderful kite out for its inaugural flight. Assembly required only crossing two long slender plastic spines and slipping their ends into pouched slots on the snout, tail end and two front legs of the dragon and attaching the cord to a center ring. The long expanse of the cord was wound around a flat plastic spindle that had been packaged up with the kite. I slathered on sunscreen and went out to my back porch that overlooked the beach, descended the stairs and began to unwind the cord. The kite rose immediately into the air, born by the strong coastal breeze. It shot upwards and upwards and upwards and––then it was soaring up and over the long line of vacation rentals and restaurants that lined the beach and I was holding the cord winder to which, it seems, the cord had not been attached!
Within seconds, my beautiful kite was gone with the wind and out of sight. I ran quickly down the beach to a small restaurant that furnished ingress to the main street of the little town that fronted the house I rented every year. I ran out onto the street, madly looking up and down for my kite, fearing to find it plastered against the windshield of a wrecked car or in broken splinters, shards and rags after being run over. I looked up and down, up and down, then ran to the center of the street to finally see it, a block away, held streaming behind the form of a small girl on the back of her mother’s motorcycle, speeding down the brick-paved street into the distance. I ran after it, shouting, creating quite a spectacle of myself, then stopped, realizing they would probably make the circuit around the plaza and come back again, as all the other motorcycles always did. But alas, I never saw the motorcycle or the little girl and mother or my beautiful new kite again. They had vanished into the labyrinthine sand streets of the little town.
For another month, I looked for it in the skies above the beach. The house I rent is only one building away from the main paved entrance to the beach and the hub of beach life, but alas, it never appeared. I console myself with the thought of the astonishment of the little girl as it soared over the rooftops and within her reach—her delight as she held it streaming out behind her, her other hand securely clutching her mother as they created a beautiful spectacle witnessed by everyone watching that day from sidewalks, benches or the inside of stores, restaurants and galleries along that main thoroughfare. Witnessed by me, standing center-road, regretting its loss. But at night, before I fall to sleep, as I look for the ten thousandth time at the paintings that cover the walls of my bedroom, I imagine that little girl in her room, my splendid red dragon kite tacked to the adobe wall in front of her bed. Her little miracle. Her treasure, perhaps, for the rest of her life.
Prompt words today were kite, scorn, labyrinthine and instant. Here are the links: