It was Easter Sunday, one of the many holidays that I don’t celebrate. Since the sky was blue and the wind strong, I decided to take my grandchildren to the field behind Hopewell Elementary for some opportune kite-flying.
My seven-year-old grandson got his fish kite into the air quickly with no assistance. My four-year-old granddaughter required only minimal help in getting her ladybug kite aloft. In short time, both kites had ascended to the length of their respective strings although my granddaughter was deeply worried about her kite touching the sky.
All went well until the variable tempestuousness of the mighty westerly suddenly ebbed, and my grandson’s fish kite descended rapidly and struck the ground. When the gusts picked up, he began running with his kite when, once again, the wind stopped, but this time his kite got caught in the birch tree next to the playground. The kite was not only stuck high up in the tree, but its ten-foot tail was wrapped around several skinny branches.
What to do?
Another grandparent entertaining her charges on the see-saw suggested calling the fire department. However, the little kids all agreed that perhaps this was not a sufficient emergency. Other observer parents just shook their heads in commiseration.
My grandson decided that he would climb the tree to retrieve the kite but almost immediately got his foot caught in a low crook of the tree. I pulled him out. Both grandchildren then suggested that I go home, get our tallest ladder and return to the tree.
However, my tallest ladder was nowhere near the 40-foot height of the kite and, besides, who wanted to walk across town carrying a ladder of any length.
What to do? A normal person would have given up and bought a new kite for $7.99. However ...
My grandson reminded me of the various extension poles in our garage. A colleague had used them to change light bulbs in her cathedral ceilings. When she moved from a grand palazzo to a more modest mansion, she decided that I needed the poles. You can never tell, I thought at the time, and took them.
I thought I’d be able to attach the two poles to each other with hose clamps and thus be able to reach the trapped kite.
Most fortuitously, I was being visited by an old friend, younger, stronger and taller than I am, who agreed to assist me in meeting the great challenge of retrieving the kite. I packed a pack with hardware and tools, trekked back to the schoolyard, and clamped the extended poles together.
Then, for about an hour, the two of us struggled to direct the unwieldy pole toward the kite with the setting sun in our eyes and our necks in pain over being awkwardly bent backwards. The sheer length of the pole made it exceptionally unwieldy creating a feeling of dizziness and imminent falling over as we tried to ensnare the kite and extract it from the tree.
With extreme effort and after spelling each other every five minutes, we managed to get the kite 10 feet closer to the ground, but its tail remained entangled in the branches.
A sympathetic parent walked by and said, “You have your work cut out for you.” I asked him if he could fly. He said, “I often wish I could.” No help.
“We need a hook to pull it down,” said my old friend, But among my cache of hardware, I had not thought to include a hook.
Then I remembered that I had seen a gardening claw that one of the school children had abandoned in one of the two educational gardens. I retrieved it and attached it to the end of the pole with yet another hose clamp that I had had the keen foresight to bring along.
After much angling with the swaying pole, we hooked the claw onto the base of the kite and pulled. And pulled. And pulled. And then, finally, the kite was freed from the tree. Except for the loss of about four feet of string, the kite was undamaged.
Once it was all over, I adjudged that the inventiveness of our method of kite retrieval was something that Einstein would have admired.
When we got back to the house, my grandson whose kite had been rescued was, in true seven-year-old character, unimpressed.