Two years ago I met a woman that volunteered at Corrymeela every summer. She was retired and had lost her husband a few years ago. Instead of using this time to wallow in the sadness of losing the love of her life, she spent her fall and spring in Wisconsin, her winters in Florida, and her summers in Northern Ireland. Not a bad deal. My boys loved her, and I did too. She was good at everything. She taught me how to make my own lotions and could stitch up a mean funky quilt within days. I still have many of her dessert recipes in my cupboard. I think I gained ten pounds the summer she worked in the kitchen. (Of course, I was also VERY pregnant, so that didn't help.)
At one point that summer she bought Miles and Liam kites out of the blue. We waited for the perfect day to give them a whirl - I hadn't flown a kite since I was young, and most windy days in Northern Ireland are accompanied by rain. When the day finally came we had so much fun getting them into the sky.
The woman, Jo, later commented that she saw us out there flying them, and that it had made her so happy. "What I like most about kites is that you can never look up at a kite and frown."
She was right.
A few weeks ago Liam won a cheap little kite at night church that I was sure wouldn't fly. I took him out this morning with little hope of getting it into the sky, but under his strict instruction that we must at least try. I tried for a good 15 minutes before we decided it just wasn't windy enough. As I was telling Liam to wrap up the string while I was plopping Oliver in the stroller, he directly defied my instructions and gave it one more shot all by himself.
And he did it.
I forgot that he had defied me and looked up at the kite that was now sailing in the sky. he ran around like a wild man trying to keep it up before finally finding his groove and staying in one place, working with his older brother to give it less or more rope.
And as I watched that pink princess kite bouncing in the air I was smiling fiercely. It was this weirdly exhilarating moment.
I was smiling and laughing and thinking of our Jo.
Today I am thankful that Liam got the kite up in the air.
Last autumn Jo lost her short but intense battle to cancer. Little did we know that when she said goodbye to us shortly after Oliver's birth that it would be the last time we'd see her. Because of the cancer she was unable to come back the following summer. I had little confidence that the boys remembered Jo or how much they adored her for that summer, but when we were walking home from the field I asked the boys if they remembered Jo. And Liam, without skipping a beat looking right at me and said, "Of course Mom, she gave me a Spiderman kite."