My first experience with a kite shattered my trust in grown-ups.
Parents could solve any problem, clean any mess, and fix any mistake. It was a magical ability you grew into, just like height or wearing adult shoe sizes.
When I was three years old, our family went on a summer outing one day. My parents, baby brother, grandma, and two aunts were there with me, and we had a kite! I was SO excited.
I watched very impatiently as one of the adults helpfully got the kite in the air and began letting out string.
The adults wouldn't trust me with the kite at first. I had just graduated from toddler-hood, but they doubted my incredible kite-flying abilities. If they thought I would be content to watch the kite, they were wrong.
I begged and begged and begged. Finally I succeeded! As the kite handle was passed down to me I received some very firm, important instructions:
"You have to hold on to the kite, okay Ellen? Don't let go."
Gotcha. I was given the kite.
"Remember not to let go!"
I had this. I had the kite! I was a kite-flying wizard. But suddenly the jolting pulls on the kite handle became alarming. The wind was strong that day — what if the kite flew me away?
I expected the kite to fall. When you drop something it falls, right? That was obviously why the adults warned me not to drop the kite: it would fall to the ground and they'd have to get it working all over again.
I dropped it, and the kite did not fall down. It fell sideways.
I yelled for my parents as I watched the handle jerk across the field, hanging from my beloved kite. Relatives ran after it, trying to catch the string before it flew out of reach. As seconds ticked by and still no one had the kite, I became more and more panicked.
Gusting winds blew the kite higher and higher into the air.
My distress lapsed into incoherence. MYKITEMYKITEGETMYKITEBACKDOWNDAADDDDYYYMYKITE!!!!
I must give credit to my family for the heroic gravity-defying leaps they performed as they tried to retrieve the kite (and my composure). At the time, I could only stare up in horror as the kite rose out of sight.
My utter bewilderment at my parents' inability to retrieve the kite was mind-boggling. A sickening, foreign emotion called guilt emerged as I began to realize I had done something irreparable...
My tiny self cracked. Wholly thanks to me, our family outing was terminated immediately.
The ensuing trip home was miserable because I wanted to go back and get my kite and fly it. Thanks to my incoherent and very vocal distress, it was also miserable for everyone else.
It would be years before I ever flew a kite again.