By David Anderson, Tillicum
It was a kite-flying contest for kids. Another blustery day on Whidbey Island, the wind pushed up the side of the bluff to where we dads and sons – and in some cases daughters – huddled together for warmth, receiving pre-event instructions. Port Townsend was visible across the strait where a ferry fought foaming waves in the crossing, beyond which lay Vancouver Island and the rest of the watery world.
The first kite to soar to the end of the 500’ spool each of the some 50 kids had been given and also reeled back in would win. Dads were only allowed to assist in getting the home-made contraptions off the ground.
What was to happen that memorable morning for my son and me almost never materialized however because I was, well, “too busy.”
I remember reading a newspaper clipping many, many years ago about a man who – as I recall – rejected the inheritance of his father’s entire cigarette fortunes because, the son declared, “he never had time to play ball with me.”
Lack of father-son time – if there are fathers in the home – is perhaps the scourge of America. David Blankenhorn, in his book “Fatherless America”, goes so far as to call dad-absenteeism “our most urgent social problem.” Just last year research showed “a third of American children now live without their biological dad.” And yet dads matter – along with moms – because both parents ‘play crucial and qualitatively different roles in the socialization of the child,’ writes Michael Lamb, author of “Fathers: Forgotten Contributors to Child Development.”
As I looked down the short length of line connecting me and my son – him with white-knuckled grip of the spool of twine and me holding the comic-section-of-the-Sunday-
But earlier it had.
It was the pain I’d seen that morning in my son’s eyes as I explained we’d fly the kite another day that began to gnaw at me as I pulled out of the driveway. Sure we’d miss the event but hey, we’d built it together hadn’t we? After all, I had pressing business to take care of.
A second glance in the rear view mirror however – seeing the disappointment evident in my son’s slumped shoulders – had caused me to turn around.
But none of that crossed my mind now.
The crossing of kite strings did.
No sooner had the ‘GO!’ command been given than pandemonium reigned. Darting and diving – mostly diving – probably a good half of all kites kamikazied the competition. No “divine wind” this, an entire squadron of spiders could not have contrived a more tangled web in less time.
It was war. And we did not escape unscathed.
We – meaning actually me since some kite from out of nowhere had taken out all neighbors downwind including ours; and because I am very competitive; and whereas I had not read it in the official rules nor at this moment would it have mattered anyway, we – I, ran out onto the field of play, to the scene of the crime, grabbed the colorful comic-kite and heaved it skyward after first throwing everyone else’s sideways.
We were airborne once again.
We – that is my son – were going to win this thing.
We weren’t the first kite out to 500’ and back. We finished second, and likely would have been disqualified anyway. But unawares to us there was a newspaper photographer somewhere there in the crowd that day and in the next edition there was a picture, the only picture recording the events of that morning.
We no longer have the picture, just the memory, of a little boy flying his kite whose father was almost too busy.