Flying a Kite

Flying a Kite at Easter in Barbados

On Easter Monday I went to the gym, while I was walking on the boring old treadmill wondering how to entertain myself, I glanced out the huge glass windows onto a large brown pasture.

At first I was not really focusing outside I was fussing that I “had” to exercise….how boring. Then my eyes focused beyond the glass. I realized that all over the pasture were dads and kids flying kites.

Well the next thirty minutes flew by as I became mesmerized with all the action going on outside. The only word I could use to describe the mood on the field is “joy”.

The group closest to me was an older man…maybe a granddad…and a small tot flying a traditional Barbadian homemade kite. It had a bright yellow background with a spiral pattern in black and red. The little fellow was so excited and kept bobbing up and down, dancing squealing out with excitement and with every squeal the granddad’s smile got bigger and bigger. Such joy. Not sure who was having the better time. Granddad or grandson

On the other side of the field were two ten year old boys…these “big” boys could handle their kite on their own. One boy walked way down the field holding the kite up high when he was in position, his buddy took off running down the field his feet flying looking back to watch the kite catch the wind and soar into the bright blue sky. It was simple, handmade, “white hag”, with a blue tail which contrasted against the sky. Success. Again the joy was tangible.

Another group of teenage boys had a store bought plastic bat kite. This bright blue kite gave no end of trouble. They just couldn’t get it to launch. They ran it down the field. One climbed on top of a car and held it up high to catch the wind.

One, two, three, up, up it would go to just turn around and nose dive back into the ground. Over and over and over they tried but with no success. I was actually proud of their determination. They just didn’t give up.

Eventually a young man was passing and witnessed their frustration. He took pity on them and went over and took up the kite in his hands…I was too far away to see what he did but he bent over and fiddled with it for a few minutes. Then he threw it up into the air and voila…success the kite soared into the sky dancing and flitting all over the place. Once again Joy spread all over the youths’ faces and they took turns holding the ball of string and running around the field watching their kite fly.

When I saw my hubby I described the action I had witnessed and at the mention of kite flying a bright grin spread across his face and he went on to tell me stories of making kites in his youth. First they would go and cut some coconut leaves. Then you had to carefully strip off the outside part of the leaves until you were left with the spine (I know the spine as croquet sticks).

Then these spines laid out like the spokes of a wheel and tied together in the center. The outer ends of the spokes are then wrapped by piece of string. Then back out into the garden to pick some Clamma Cherry berries. These berries produce a sticky goo that is used like glue to stick the kite paper, plastic bags, or bread paper (whatever you had on hand) over the sticks and twine. The kite tongue is carefully assembled so your kite can roar.

Finally the kite string is tied to the middle and the most important part…the tail is added often made out of strips of cloth from old clothes. This was a very time consuming job but he use to feel very accomplished when his kite was soaring in the sky.

Throughout the years we took our girls kite flying usually at the Garrison. The last time we went kite flying was about a year ago. We had bought a kite from one of the numerous kite booths that spring up at roundabouts and on the side of the streets during the month preceding Easter.

We had a long tail, lots of kite string and the kite would launch: bob around and crash land. We came to the conclusion that we did not have enough tail. The kids searched the car for anything to help the kite to fly and found a pair of batman boxers which they gleefully tied to the tail and low and behold the kite soared into the sky.

It was amusing to watch this majestic kite dance in the breeze and to see the tail with its batman adornment bobbing behind. The teenagers didn’t care. Their kite was flying. Kite flying brings out the kid in all of us as I am never too sure who has the best time flying kites the dad’s or the kids I will say it is of equal enjoyment.

Kite flying can also become annoying. Recently a “mad bull” kite was tied off in the sky over our house. I love to hear the roar of the mad bull tongue when they are first launched. The tongues make a distinct roaring sound. Lovely during the day but extremely annoying to hear the buzzing and growling all night long. It becomes as maddening as a dripping tap. The tap you can do something about but the droning kite in the sky…you can do nothing about.

My father used to tell stories of kite fighting competitions that took place in his youth. The boys would glue glass shards onto the kite strings and when they flew kites they would “attack” other kites in the sky and rub the strings against the opposing kite until the string was severed and the kite would sail away or crash to the ground leaving one disappointed loser and a proud winner. These competitions took skill and practice.

One thing that comes with kite flying is sometimes the wind dips and you lose your kite as it disappears into trees, wraps itself around power lines or drops into the sea and disintegrates. These disastrous turns of events can turn joy into tears in a heartbeat especially for the little ones.

I look forward to kite flying season every year in Barbados as I see it as a happy time. Nobody is ever glum while flying kites. The kids are running as fast as their legs can carry them to launch their kite, be it a mad bull, a bat kite, a box kite, a paper kite, a plastic kite, a homemade kite or a store bought one it brings joy and happiness.

This is a tradition that dates back generations and is believed to have held, in the past, a religious connotation as a symbol of Christ’s ascent from death.

Whatever the history behind kite flying is, it still brings joy to those that come out at Easter and fly kites. And long may it continue to be a tradition in Barbados.