The Heartbreaking Story of the Red Kite

Every time we see a kite in the sky, we strain to see if it's red.

red kite

Six-year-old Brandon arrived at our house with a broken arm, a battered suitcase, and mistrust in his black eyes.  On his first day with us, we went over the “Rules of the House.”

With foster children coming and going – and even with our own kids – it’s good to lay down the basic expectations.  So we have a list on our kitchen bulletin board that says things like “No Kicking” and “Say Please and Thank You.” When I read out Rule #5 – No Hitting – Brandon looked at me and said “That should be Rule #1” and he grabbed a thick black marker and circled it twice. I bent down for a hug, but he ran off before I could touch him.

Within weeks, Brandon had wormed his way into our hearts.  When he realized he could trust us, it was like a light had been switched on. He was bright and mischievous and he’d fly down the hall every morning shouting “I’m awake!” with a huge grin on his face. Months went by, and it felt like he had been a part of our family forever. The day he gave my husband Mike a spontaneous hug and said “thank you for being nice to me” we knew he finally felt safe.

I remember a warm summer day watching Mike patiently showing Brandon how to fly a kite. "I can DO it Daddy - WATCH!"  For the next hour my husband ran with Brandon through the field, trying to get that kite to fly. Unfortunately, the wind that was gusting that morning had died down and failed to reappear, leaving Brandon in tears. For the rest of the afternoon, I curled with an inconsolable child on the porch swing, nursing popsicles and reassuring him that next time they would get that kite in the sky.

The kite was a childhood relic that Mike’s own dad had taught him to fly, which he has cherished for years and kept in perfect condition. My kids nicknamed it the "Valentine" kite since it was bright red. They spent hours every summer with that kite – and each evening it was a rule that they pack up that beloved Valentine kite carefully so we could have a chance to fly it again next time.

There weren't that many next times for Brandon. Like many foster children, he returned to his parents. For the days leading up to his departure, we flew that kite constantly in the field behind our house. Fall had arrived, and every morning Brandon would wake up in anticipation of flying that kite after school – wanting desperately to have that “one more chance” to make it soar through the air. Each day when the bus dropped the kids off from school, they would all run in the house shouting “It’s Valentine’s Day!!” – the family joke that it was time to fly that stubborn red kite.

On Brandon’s last night with us, we listened to a heartbroken child cry himself to sleep. When he finally drifted off, I found Mike in the living room silently folding clothes and putting them in a suitcase. I glanced down and my eyes widened. Mike glared at me, daring me to say anything. I didn't.  I let him fold up his cherished "Valentine" kite and put it in the suitcase. 

I worried about telling my kids that we gave that much-loved kite to Brandon - the odds that he’d be able to use it again were slim.  We told the children at bedtime that night. They were quiet for a while, but then my wise seven-year-old daughter said solemnly “That’s okay. He needs it more than we do.  He doesn’t have to fly it – he can just hug it and think of us.” 

When we waved goodbye to Brandon the next day, there were no dry eyes. We like to imagine his face when he opened his suitcase and saw what was in there.

And every time we see a kite in the sky, we strain to see if it is red. 

 RELATED: Remembering Niki

As well as being a foster parent, Karen Elliott is a web designer and freelance artist who also works for the Yummy Mummy Club as the online editor.

She and her husband live in a small hamlet in rural Ontario with their two biological children and a continual stream of others who pass through on their childhood journey.