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A kite’s tale

by Joan Marshall-Wilkinson

If I were forced to vote for my favourite time of the year, it would be Easter, with Christmas running a close second – not close enough to demand a photo finish or for observers to say Easter barely eked out that win or – well you get what I am trying to say.

Yes, Easter is really special to me. At Easter:

We celebrate Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus’s triumph resurrection from the dead even though the event happened some two thousand years ago.

My parents were married on Easter Sunday 57 years ago. Although my dad is now deceased, I still think of that event every Easter.

Sometimes my April 14 birthday falls on Easter.

In Toronto we are saying bye to ole man winter and are eagerly awaiting the emergence of the many coloured tulips; the grass pushing the snow aside seemingly anxious to be awake from its winter sleep and the sighting of the sparrows – a clear signal that spring is around the corner.

And then there is all the activity that happened at our house around Easter – activities that still invoke pleasant memories and “nuff” nostalgia of my childhood days.

As Good Friday approached, every hen in the hen house or backyard, would be under severe pressure – so many futures hinged on the outcome of the coveted fresh egg that would be broken and placed in the morning sun to set. Most mothers waited anxiously praying that the end result of that finished egg would not be a depiction of a gallows. For them it meant any boy child living at the house was headed for Dodds or Glendairy and eventually the gallows.

According to local and popular belief there were mainly three depictions of the finished egg – a chapel with a steeple, an airplane and a gallows.

The chapel meant marriage; the airplane meant someone would be immigrating and the gallows meant someone (mostly a young boy) would be hanged.

To me, the image was always the same year after year. To my eyes it looked as though the white of the egg just mingled with the yolk and the image produced was random, generic.

Then there was the kite making. The boys (Andy, Alwyn, Bobby, Stephen, Colvin, Geoffrey) in my family were artisans/skilled with their hands. They were excellent at building and constructing things. They all built the pigpens in the backyard; the fowl coops and anything else that required that type of skill. I am still surprise that none of them pursued that type of career.

We girls were never excluded; we were always part of the work crew and so during kite making time, we were as busy as the boys. There was so much work to be done. We all worked like a well oiled, organized assembly line.

The bones for the kites would be shaved and placed on the living room table; hundreds of common-pins piled in a container; the paste (flour and water) at times made by my grandmother would be in a giant mixing bowl. Please note that according to my grandmother, the paste (glue) had to be of the right “consistency” – not too runny, not too thick.

Then there were the various sizes and many different coloured pieces of paper – all shapes, all sizes. My older brother, Andy, was the person in charge; the main kite maker. He made his kites in all shapes and sizes – small kites, medium kites, big kites, large kites, octagonal, rectangular, triangular, hexagonal, square, circular.

On some of these kites he would add an extra feature – “the mad bull”. This extra piece of the same coloured paper specifically designed and strategically placed on the kite, would create an aircraft-like sound when the kite was in flight.

Customers would come from all over Barbados to purchase these kites which were so different and so well made. The kites were sold without the cord or the tail – the buyers were responsible for those two items.

Like the brides’ tiara or the groom’s bow tie, the tail was the kite’s crowning glory. The tail was pivotal to the success of the kite staying in the air and flying well. The tail could be also used as a weapon.

A razor could be attached to the tail and if the flyer was skillful and could manoeuvre his/her kite, its tail could cut down another flyer’s kite if more than one kite was flying in proximity.

At times it could be a herculean task finding material for the tail. Old bed sheets, pillow cases, shirts and skirts would be stripped to rags and sometimes mothers’ and grandmothers’ dress bands or any material that could be found would be utilized to make the kites’ tail.

One kite’s tale I recall is my cousin taking one of the kites and after searching ‘high and low’ attached a tail to his kite. This kite flew to great heights and flew for a longtime. He staked the kite out and we all admired the beauty and ease with which this kite flew for hours.

He eventually hauled in the kite, and placed it on the table. An hour or so later, my aunt returned from Bridgetown and on beholding the kite, exclaimed “Lord, look how this boy tek up muh good dress band and mek kite tail”.

Needless to say all of our tails were in big trouble!!!

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