In the years after World War II, my parents did not have much money, but they seemed to be able to insulate their children from their difficulties. On a windy March day when I was eight or nine years old, all of my neighborhood friends were flying kites. I asked my mother for 15 cents to buy a kite, and though it was a sacrifice, she scraped the money together.
Soon I had my new kite and was on my way to the field. It was a blustery day, and I had not had my kite in the air for very long when it was blown into what we called the “kite-eating tree.” My new kite was ruined, and I came home crying and pleaded with my mother for another 15 cents. She had already sacrificed to buy the first kite, but still she dug into the bottom of her purse and managed to gather up another 15 pennies. I sped down to the West Seattle Junction on my bike to buy another kite. When I returned, there were even more kids flying kites than before. I put my kite together and got out there as quickly as I could.
This time the air space was more crowded with kites, and I was forced to fly mine closer to the kite-eating tree than I was comfortable with. It didn’t take long before I was again dragging my kite, ripping and tearing it, through that menacing tree. I ran into the house crying, but this time there were no more pennies to be found. I went back outside and sat sullenly on the front steps to watch the other kids fly their kites. That was more painful than it was fun, and after a few minutes I went in the house feeling sorry for myself.
When I walked into the kitchen where my mother had been sewing, I saw a sparkle in her eye that hadn’t been there before. Then I glanced at the kitchen table. There before me was the ugliest kite I had ever seen. It was made out of wrapping paper, the thick and muddy brown kind. The edges were hand cut and glued roughly together, with remnants of my old kites still stuck to them. Mom had used the sticks and pieces from the two store-bought, lightweight kites and turned them into the meanest junkyard-dog-of-a-kite I had ever seen. My first reaction through my tears was that it would never get off the ground. I told her so, and she simply replied, “Why don’t you give it a try?” Reluctantly, I took it outside. I would face the ridicule from my friends just to show my mom that I was right.
Everyone watched, tittering and smiling, as I launched the thing. To my surprise it lifted up nicely, even without a tail. Soon it was steadily climbing up and up, and before long it was above all the store-bought flimsy kites that couldn’t take the wind at such a height. Up and up it went until I ran out of string. Proudly and solidly it waved back and forth. One by one the other kites that day came to an untimely demise, but the ugly brown kite continued to fly.
When I began to wind up the string to bring my kite down, I was paying more attention to the ball of string in my hands than to the kite. I finally looked up, but it was too late. My kite was headed right for the kite-eating tree, and there was nothing I could do about it. “Not again!” I thought as it dropped right into the tree and hung in the upper branches. By now I loved that kite and didn’t want to leave it in the kite-eating tree, so I began to pull it ever so slowly through the branches. Much to my surprise, it kept coming and just pushed the branches out of the way. Finally, I became more bold and pulled with less finesse, and then I heard something that no one else that day had heard—twigs and small limbs breaking and snapping as that old kite pulled right through what seemed like the middle of the tree and floated gently to the ground.
I ran into the house to report to Mom what a great kite she had made, and I asked her how she had done it. I’ll never forget her answer nor the look on her face as she gave it. She simply replied, “I didn’t know how to make it but I knew someone who did, so I got on my knees and asked the Lord to help me.” That kite sat in the corner of my bedroom for many years after my kite-flying days were over. I could not bring myself to throw away the kite that was the answer to my mother’s prayer.