My eyes glowed with childlike wonder as I pulled it off a shelf in my brother-in-law’s garage. The colors and streamers beckoned me to let them taste the swift joy of the afternoon breeze. From behind me, I heard my young nephew beckon me as well.
“Uncle Aaron, let’s play with the kite!”
Yes, I was getting the kite for him. But every fiber of my being wanted to see the kite flying in the sky, too. Of course, I’d let my nephew fly it…just after I got it up in the air myself.
We went out into the yard, and I got the kite into the air. As it started to fly, my nephew asked for me to give him control. That’s not exactly how he phrased it, but that’s how my mind interpreted it. I felt like Frodo holding the One Ring in the fires of Mount Doom.
I begrudgingly gave the kite over to my nephew. He quickly let loose the string so the kite could climb higher and higher into the sky. The kite’s red tail flapped playfully in the wind while the sun glinted off every last color. My nephew was having fun and I truly was enjoying the moment.
But then, something else caught my nephew’s attention.
My wife was pushing our niece in the stroller on the driveway. They were coming out to enjoy the sun as well. Suddenly, my nephew dropped the handle and ran towards them. As the kite handle fell to the ground, the unraveled kite string fell with it.
My focus shifted away from my family enjoying the beautiful day and turned instead to the colorful kite. It was flying so majestically — I couldn’t let it hit the ground. I grabbed the string to pull it tight while using my other hand to grab the extra loose string. I was focused on the kite in the air. I forgot about the string in my hand.
When I looked down, it had become a heap of coiled mess.
I pulled on the string, but that only made it bunch up tighter. I turned around and looked at my wife, my niece and my nephew. What was a beautiful picture of children playing with their aunt I instead interpreted as the reason for the mess of string in my hand.
In reality, the only way for me to see the cause of that mess would have been to look in a mirror.
I called to them to come play with the kite, but they had moved on to other games. I stood there, alone. The wonder of the kite had left me. The beauty of my family was blurry to my vision. The clouds of selfishness had fogged my sight.
I couldn’t leave the kite like it was. I knelt down on the ground and focused on the coiled string. It was a complete mess. What once had been one smooth, continuous line had wrapped itself into a bungled, ugly catastrophe.
I pulled and prodded at the string. “Why didn’t anyone want to play with the kite?” I thought. “That’s why we came out here in the first place, right?” Well, it was at least why I came outside.
Then, I paused.
I looked down at the string. I suddenly became aware that I was completely by myself. Sarah and the kids had migrated to the other side of the yard. It was just me and the mangled string.
I looked down again. I noticed a loop that just needed a slight adjustment. All my focus turned to that precarious loop. I pulled the loop and a section of the coiled mess loosened. I became consumed with the task at hand. My bitterness blew away in the breeze.
After a few minutes, the string was free. I pulled the kite in and wrapped the string back around its handle. Just as I was finishing up, my nephew walked up to me.
“Thank you for fixing the kite, Uncle Aaron.”
He didn’t have to do that. What’s more is that I could tell he meant it. Sure, my wife had encouraged him to do it, but his simple act of gratitude made me instantly realize how fickle I had been. Instead of focusing on ways I felt I had been wronged, I noticed the glint of the sunlight in my nephew’s eyes. I noticed the beautiful sound of my niece’s laugh.
Everything came into focus.
I walked into the garage and put the kite back on the shelf. It must have been strong wood. The weight of my bitterness and frustration didn’t even cause a creak. I felt physically lighter.
I went back inside. My nephew wanted to read a book. So I sat down and read with him. There was childlike wonder in his eyes.
Aaron Charles is a writer and marketing account executive from Indiana. You can connect with him on Twitter, Medium or Instagram. Aaron and his wife Sarah run a Medium publication called Cooking With Sarah that documents their weekly cooking adventures.