The mother walked across the uneven grass to the new barn. She had too much to do. She reminded herself to pull her torso up straight, imagining that the core of her was strong and not weighed down.
The burden she had created had caused her to become extremely determined.
She had kept far too many things. Especially those of her oldest son. And now there were also too many of her husbands as well. And there was her own hoarding tendencies that stemmed from her overactive sentimentality. ‘Things’ covered the storage racks in the new barn, filled the drawers in the old house, and collected dust and fine, sandy dirt in boxes in cobwebby and dirtdobbed corners of the old barn. All of it was in the way.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the only place she had created the issue. The problem had been worse and yet most recently better in the mother’s house in town. She had been letting go for weeks but it was this past week that the mother had spent cleaning out her husband’s closet.
She had rubbed her hand across his work clothes one last time, consoled herself more than she expected with the prayers that maybe someone else would benefit from them, and kept the one that her husband had married her in. Made of wool with lapels in fashion more than four decades ago, it would benefit no one. But her.
A thousand pounds of life and love and grief played about her head, filtering down, weighing heavy, making her stomach hurt slightly.
She was now out of the hopeful expectation place and into the pit of despair. The mother’s mind had been threatening to go there all week and the sheer enormity of the task at the farm had finally pushed her the last little bit. It showed up in her behavior. She was unsteady in hand, her thinking wonky, and tears seeped out of her eyes and dripped down her face even without her knowing they were coming.
Where in the world would she start, she thought.
She was reluctant to admit it. She was tired, dead tired, of holding it together. Of having this job. Of the way this world works. She knew that even in this sucky world there is such a thing as joy but today she was exhuasted before she’d even started the race. And joy? Well that felt as elusive as the fine wispy clouds she saw against the morning sun.
She and her youngest son, walked into the barn and the mother sighed to herself.
What a mess, she thought.
Looking around it was hard to have your gaze light on just one thing there was so much stuff.
Of course it was her that had kept the strange, rather long plastic box that had a picture of a kite on the label. Her oldest son had purchased it. She had moved it back and forth over the years, having most recently stored it on one of the shelves of the new barn. Somehow over the decade and a half she had kept it, it had finally gotten paired up with the fishing reel looking implement that spooled yards of kite string meant to fly the thing.
“Do you know that this thing measures wind velocity,” her youngest asked. He gently blew across the top of the reel and the small bead moved up the column to register his breath.
The mother thought about her oldest son buying this kite and reel. It seemed sad and appropriate and right and tender and affirming that this youngest son of hers would appreciate that particular part of the purchase of his brother.
“You want to fly it?”
The mother doesn’t recall whose suggestion this was.
The kite was really something. It was a pirates ship, delicately strung, it’s sails made of light nylon fabric. As delicate as it looked, as light as it was, the mother did think to herself how resilient it seemed to be. So many of the things she had kept had become brittle. Nothing on the kite had faded. Nothing seemed about to break despite it looking as fragile as it did. The long, curly tail spun on a spinner that was almost heavier than the ship itself. The whole thing remained colorful, bright red and white, yellow with black skulls and crossbones decorating its six nylon sails. Something about that sort of tickled her, seeping every so slightly into her sore heart. An elaborate pirate ship kite; it was so her oldest son.
The mother and the son first tried flying the kite in the front pasture. It was not lost on the mother that they were implementing methodology she had never employed in her childhood kite flying years.
“Drive straight up the hill!” he instructed.
“Floor it!” yelled the son. Bouncing on the back of the golf cart, spooling out string, he was trying to catch the wind.
The front pasture isn’t flat. It rolls down to the little lake and then rolls back up on the other side to the first cross fence of the farm. It’s a natural water shed. It apparently is also a place where the wind eddies and pools, at the whim of the up then down geography.
The mother was no stranger to speed. She took her job to heart.
“What are you doing?!” the son yelled from the back seat, as the mother made wide a circle across the bottom near the little lake, avoiding the dam, petal to the floorboard back up the hill, zooming across the pasture, like she knew exactly in what direction the ever changing wind would be at her back. There was nothing in her paths that was straight.
“Oh my gosh,” the son said, his face registering dueling thoughts. He was torn. Should he laugh at her antics, the consistency of her driving personality surfacing or worry she’d lost it completely. He might not have been able to articulate everything going on in the mother’s mind, but he had sensed her careening, near the edge, earlier.
Now the mother’s stomach hurt differently. Her sides ached from laughing. From deep inside her heart, spilling out of her, she laughed hard. The sound drifted across the pasture, mingling with the calls of the Carolina wren and cardinals. She was still thinking about her oldest son and her husband, and a slight twinge about the task that had brought her to this place, but mostly right now, she was happy. She hadn’t planned to be nor had she thought she should be, she had too much to do, but there she was; happy.
And not just happy. She was filled with certain joy.
“Maybe we should try the middle pasture,“ she suggested, enamored by the look on the son’s face. All of her sons had looked at her this way one time or another. It was a look that held the knowledge of who they knew her to be and the love they held for her.
“Okay, Speedracer, you don’t have to just gun it all the time,” the son said as they passed through the first gate.
The middle pasture is the highest part of the farm. Like a narrow, flat plateau, it is a place that the mother has found use for before. Up here the wind didn’t have as much terrain to navigate, it blew more evenly and the blue sky held promise for the pirate ship to float across waves of air.
They flew the kite for an hour. It never got as high as they would have liked, but it rode on invisible, light windy waves, pulling the kite string tight, its tail spinning wildly.
“It’s pretty up there in the sky”, the mother thought to herself. Or maybe she said it out loud. It was a little like her, tethered to earth, her heart and head always straining towards Heaven.
“Some kites fly better than others,” said the son. He had examined every inch of the kite’s construction, his physics mind in play.
“Maybe we should take the tail off,” the mother said, remembering childhood solutions and the difference in kites she had tried to fly.
“I made a kite once,” said the mother and she told the son a story of her high school years and the art project. “We got extra points if we could actually fly it.”
She told him so he could store the story away, a different kind of keeping than the things she had tried to hold onto.
“That’s a strange art project. Kites are not really about beautiful design, they are about physics…” and while the son expanded on drag and lift and proper angle, the mother thought dueling thoughts. She was enormously proud of her son’s intellect and increasingly relied upon it and his gentleness to aid and the patience he had and yet sometimes she knew it to be true that kites are about more than physics.
On the right day in the right way they are actually almost solely about joy.