Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sky Commander

It being the last day of March, I thought it might be a nice gesture to fly a kite.

Kites and me go way back. In my thirties and forties, I made a succession of rattly brown paper diamond kites with tails from old bedsheets, sporting pictures of birds (cardinals, terns) in colored markers.

In my twenties, there was a transparent one I remember with the face of the bearded guy from
Zig-Zag rolling papers. The picture of a carefree high.

As a kid, I invested in a series of Hi-Flyers and Gaylas, with names like Sky Commander and Sky Hawk. Bad things happened to many of them: snapped frames, torn paper, kite-eating trees. But just as often they flew, that wonderful trick where the wind takes them up, higher and higher, the string taut but disappearing, till they're a small thing, yet under your control, a scary, potent responsibility in which you're somehow rooted and aloft at the same time.

So I was hopeful. In the garage, I knew, were two bedraggled cloth kites, acquired against a once-optimistic belief that Matthew might want to fly one. (There was one memorable kite-related tantrum in California that probably ended that dream.) I fished them out. Their bold colors were stained with years of garage grime. But the big day had come at last, at least for one of them. I chose the one striped in magenta, yellow, turquoise, and two different shades of green, with wing streamers that (I hoped) sufficed for a tail. I tied a string to the grommet. At least I remembered about grommets. And kite in hand, I drove to Robbins Farm.

Robbins Farm used to be a farm, with fields and orchards, at the highest elevation in Arlington. Then it became a park with a playground and a pair of vertiginous slides and a baseball field and an amazing panoramic view of Boston (see above). It's the place to go for sunrises and moonrises and fireworks displays arrayed along the horizon. And whatever the weather is anywhere else, it always has a bountiful wind for kites.

But not today. Today I'm a man with a kite waiting for a lift. I'm surrounded by robins—Robbins robins—singing. They are pointing out that they can fly. The eastern sky is a gray death march of clouds, somber but beautiful. If there were background music, it would probably be the Red Army, singing "Polyushka Polye." ( It's the day that it finally stopped raining, but the sun refused to unrain on March's parade. So March will go out not like a lamb. More like a sea otter.

I must look kind of pathetic holding the kite by the string, giving it a trial yank now and then. I decide I'm too dignified to run with it. I decide to be a kind of art installation, entitled Man Waiting with Kite. Then I get a little stir of a breeze, just enough to turn the kite this way and that. So I throw dignity to the wind and run, ploddingly, this way and that. But the wind is not impressed. Maybe I offended it in my post last week. Maybe there was a Red Army hymn I was supposed to sing, to evoke the wind of the steppes.

I'm thinking I should go when my cell phone groans in my pocket. It's Matthew. He has his guitar with him and wants a ride home from school. Okay. Five minutes, I tell him.

Man with kite goes striding through the playground to his car, feeling somewhat disappointed, somewhat relieved. March, he decides, appreciated the effort.

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