Kite in a Tree: the Republic of Play

It’s an unseasonably mild spring day. A warm breeze buffets the tree boughs, the sun is out in full force. It feels like the middle of June, not the first of April. Everywhere people are out washing cars, puttering in gardens. In two different drive-ways kids are playing hockey. That’s not typical, seeing so many kids out. But this is Easter weekend. Family is visiting.

My husband and I walk around the block, talking idly about work, jobs to be done at home. We live on a crescent just outside of town, a perfect one-mile loop, dotted with houses on two-acre lots. Mostly retired folk live here. There are children in our neighbourhood, to be sure, but you don’t really see them much. It is not like kind of place where children are out and about, dashing from one house to the next, skateboarding down the middle of the road, or playing 500-up with well-worn baseball gloves. That’s the kind of street I grew up, forever tearing across the narrow road to my friends’ house, banging on the screen door and asking: “can Lonnie come out and play?” That doesn’t happen here. The houses are too far apart. Play-dates are organized by phone.

We round the corner and I see it: blue, green, yellow, orange. A kite stranded in the highest branches of an ancient maple tree. It sways a little in the breeze. I stop for a moment and stare at it.

“What?” my husband says, stopping, too.

“Oh, I love that!” I say, pointing at the kite.

My husband looks. “Huh,” he says, “must be stuck.” He starts walking again.

“Isn’t that cool? It must be too high for Mr. Canning to reach.” Mr. Canning lives just a few houses down from us. He is out in the yard with his trade-mark rubber boots on, but he isn’t working, today. He is playing a game of pick-up hockey with a handful of his grandkids. When I grow up, I want to be like him. A retired school-teacher and trustee, he’s a dab hand around the yard, but someone who knows when to throw the rake down and pick up a football.

I start walking again. “I remember a long time ago when our kite got caught in a tree. You were away, I think”.

It was a gigantic box of a kite the kids had. A colourful fish monstrosity, with a long flowing tail. The wind was blowing gale-force that day, and it yanked the spool right out of my daughter’s hands, carried our kite up and over the pine trees in our side-yard. We took off after it at a gallop, following its trajectory to a vacant lot about three yards over. It caught on birch tree, about mid-way up. Mr. Canning came to our rescue, with a long hooked pole, the kind of home-made contraption that wise grandfatherly types always have on hand.

I start walking after my husband. “I love that it is stuck there,” I say. “It says: ‘children play here”.

My husband smiles. “Maybe we should keep it,” he offers, “as a sort of neighbourhood flag”.

“Yeah, that’s a great idea.”

I know it won’t last, but I hold onto it anyway. To heck with the manicured hedges, the golf carts on their way to the country club at the end of the street. Here, let real play rule.

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