shouted Brother, bursting into the kitchen. "We need lots more
It was Saturday. As always, it was a busy one, for "Six days shalt
thou labor and do all they work" was taken seriously then. Outside,
Father and Mrs. Patrick next door were doing chores.
Inside the two houses, Mother and Mrs. Patrick were engaged in spring
cleaning. Such a windy March day was ideal for "turning out"
clothes closets. Already woolens flapped on back-yard clotheslines.
Somehow the boys had slipped away to the back lot with kites. Now, even at
the risk of having Brother impounded to beat carpets, they had sent him for more
string. Apparently there was no limit to the heights to which kites would
My mother looked out the window. The sky was piercingly blue; the breeze
fresh and exciting. Up in all that blueness sailed great puffy billows of
clouds. It had been a long, hard winter, but today was Spring.
Mother looked at the sitting room, its furniture disordered for a Spartan
sweeping. Again her eyes wavered toward the window. "Come on,
girls! Let's take string to the boys and watch them fly the kites a
On the way we met Mrs. Patrick, laughing guiltily, escorted by her girls.
There never was such a day for flying kites! God doesn't make two such
days in a century. We played all our fresh twine into the boys' kites and
still they soared. We could hardly distinguish the tiny, orange-colored
specks. Now and then we slowly reeled one in, finally bringing it dipping
and tugging to earth, for the sheer joy of sending it up again. What a
thrill to run with them, to the right, to the left, and see our poor,
earth-bound movements, reflected minutes later in the majestic sky-dance of the
kites! We wrote wishes on slips of paper and slipped them over the
string. Slowly, irresistibly, they climbed up until they reached the
kites. Surely, all such wishes would be granted!
Even our fathers dropped hoe and hammer and joined us. Our mothers took
their turn, laughing like schoolgirls. Their hair blew out of their
pompadours and curled loose about their cheeks; their gingham aprons whipped
about their legs. Mingled with our fun was something akin to awe.
The grownups were really playing with us! Once I looked at Mother and
thought she looked actually pretty. And her over forty!
We never knew where the hours went on that hilltop day. There were no
hours, just a golden, breezy Now. I think we were all a little beyond
ourselves. Parents forgot their duty and their dignity; children forgot
their combativeness and small spites. "Perhaps it's like this in the
Kingdom of Heaven," I thought confusedly.
It was growing dark before, drunk with sun and air, we all stumbled sleepily
back to the houses. I suppose there must have been a surface tidying-up,
for the house on Sunday looked decorous enough.
The strange thing was, we didn't mention that day afterward. I felt a
little embarrassed. Surely none of the others had thrilled to it as deeply
as I. I locked the memory up in that deepest part of me where we keep
"the things that cannot be and yet are."
The years went on, then one day I was scurrying about my own kitchen in a city
apartment, trying to get some work out of the way while my three-year-old
insistently cried her desire to "go park and see ducks."
"I can't go!" I said. "I have this and this to do,
and when I'm through I'll be too tired to walk that far."
My mother, who was visiting us, looked up from the peas she was shelling.
"It's a wonderful day," she offered; "really warm, yet there's a
fine, fresh breeze. It reminds me of the day we flew the kites."
I stopped in my dash between stove and sink. The locked door flew open,
and with it a gush of memories. I pulled off my apron. "Come
on," I told my little girl. "You're right, it's too good a day
Another decade passed. We were in the aftermath of a great war. All
evening we had been asking our returned soldier, the youngest Patrick boy, about
his experiences as a prisoner of war. He had talked freely, but now for a
long time he had been silent. What was he thinking of -- what dark and
"Say!" A smile twitched his lips. "Do you remember...
no, of course you wouldn't. It probably didn't make the impression on you
it did on me."
I hardly dared speak. "Remember what?"
"I used to think of that day a lot in PW camp, when things weren't too
good. Do you remember the day we flew the kites?"
Winter came, and the sad duty of a call of condolence on Mrs. Patrick, recently
widowed. I dreaded the call. I couldn't imagine how Mrs. Patrick
would face life alone.
We talked a little of my family and her grandchildren and the changes in the
town. Then she was silent, looking down at her lap. I cleared my
throat. Now I must say something about her loss, and she would begin to
When she looked up, Mrs. Patrick was smiling. "I was sitting here
thinking," she said. "Henry had such fun that day.
Frances, do you remember the day we flew the kites?"
from The 30th Anniversary Reader's Digest Reader; condensed from Parent
Magazine (July 1949), by Frances Fowler