His Kind

Since my two older cousins were boys and my sister, Sheila, was ultra feminine, throughout my first thirteen years of life I was a confirmed tomboy despite being smallest of the three. All I wanted were trees to climb, marbles to shoot, kites to fly, yo-yos to spin, roller skates to race, and bicycles to keep up with my cousins. For me, it was nothing less than euphoric to have hours on end to make pop guns from the branches of chinaberry trees, homemade boats, or model train sets to tinker with alongside my cousins. Much to my mother’s chagrin I only wanted to wear dungarees (now known as jeans) and felt infringed upon when told to wear a dress.

A.J. (for Anthony, Jr., because he disliked “Anthony” “Tony” or “Jr.”), and his younger brother, Charles, were our first cousins but Sheila and I considered them more like brothers since we lived with them for a couple of years after our mother and father divorced. From the onset of cohabitation an unspoken bond formed between us that strengthened over time. Our mothers were the eldest of five children and could finish each others sentences which A.J., Charles, Sheila, and I believed fashioned an intrinsic alliance between their children. Since Sheila was so fundamentally ladylike and I, at the time, chiefly wasn’t, I gravitated to A.J. and Charles’ lifestyle. I was fascinated with whatever they enjoyed doing.

On one occasion A.J. decided to give me a lesson on kite-making. It couldn’t have been more convenient that the man around the corner sold all the material we’d need. Known throughout our neighborhood simply as the Kite Man, no one ever bothered to find out his real name but everyone knew him. The Kite Man kept a medley of supplies on hand to make kites – paper, pre-cut and notched sticks, string, glue, fabric, even assembled tails (that no self-respecting kid would purchase, except those too lazy or absent of pride).

The first time I went with A.J. to get my supplies I thought it was fairly odd that the Kite Man conducted his business affairs through the front window of his home, from his porch. On the swing by that window were stacks of paper, sticks bundled in sets of two, and assembled tails made of colorful strips of fabric. Everything else he kept inside the house and handed out through the window. Before we stepped onto the porch A.J. instructed me to let him do the talking since he was a frequent customer and well known by the Kite Man. In less than three minutes I had everything I needed and we were on our way back home where I was about to become just as proficient as A.J. at making kites.

For me though it wasn’t just about learning to make a kite. I wanted to experience the thrill of winning. I wanted not to be thought of as “just a girl,” “too little,” or dismissed as A.J. or Charles’ little cousin. I wanted acceptance. Kite fighting grabbed my attention as one way I could be seen by those I considered my peers just as myself, no more or no less than that. I had watched A.J. and Charles for months fly, master the air, and take control of the kites of others. A.J. was the best. In a span of five days he had commandeered three kites, but he always returned them. For him it was the competition that held his interest. I liked his style. I didn’t want to take anyone’s kite either; I just wanted to show them that I could. For me winning was its own reward.

Some kites looked better than A.J.’s but those were his prime targets. He explained which kites he would win as he patiently helped me assemble mine. He cautioned me not to get too creative lest my kite too would become a target. He advised me to keep it simple but make it strong, to reinforce it and to attach the razor blade precisely in the right position on the string to make it a resilient contender. The kite’s tail and line were critical too. Once airborne, if the tail was too heavy the kite would be unsteady, if the line wasn’t tied just slightly above the center of gravity that too would impair performance. Bearing in mind the winds that the kite would have to withstand all elements needed meticulous consideration before it could perform as the adversary I hoped it would be. I listened carefully, followed all of his instructions to his satisfaction, and as I finished my kite A.J. reminded me that especially since I was girl I wouldn’t be taken seriously if my kite were to fall victim on my entry into the world of kite fighting. It was just as important to come home with my kite intact as to bring down another.

We hit the street running. After we found an open space away from power lines, both our kites lifted and I was ecstatic. The kites we individually aimed for had been flying for a while. A.J. struck first. He pointed out to me the brightly colored oddly designed kite that was his target and with a couple of steps and a proficient sweep of his arm he set his plan in action. He worked his kite slightly below the other one and cut its string, then wrapped the loose string around the string of his kite. Presto! It was his! He reeled both kites in while I checked to locate the direction of the owner – easily found because of the spew of expletives – as A.J. and I laughed until our stomachs ached. All the while I was careful to avoid the same fate as the owner of the colorful kite.

We did find the owner and he was reunited with his beloved kite. I didn’t get an opportunity that day to win my own fight but there were other days when I was quite successful and got to demonstrate my capacity for benevolence just like A.J.

Kite fighting was an art, a skill that I enjoyed observing and learning but not to show off or be mean-spirited, it was a small attempt to successfully compete in a world where the neighborhood motto was “boys ruled and girls drooled!”

By the time Sheila and I moved from the neighborhood A.J. and I proved them wrong. There was at least one girl around who didn’t want to rule but she sure didn’t drool either. I couldn’t have done it without A.J. and Charles, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

“Then God said: Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the tame animals, all the wild animals, and all the creatures that crawl on the earth. God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female – he created them.”          Genesis 1:26-27

 

 

 

{Thank you for spending some time with me. May God Bless you always.}

5 thoughts on “His Kind

  1. I would really like to say thank you a whole lot for that job you have made in writing this blog post. I am hoping the same perfect work from you in the future as well.

    • My sincere appreciation for visiting and sharing your comment with us. Have a Blessed Christmas and I pray that your 2012 is filled with all that is good through God. May God Bless you always.

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