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Two of the central themes of this story are friendship and childhood innocence. Buddy, the narrator, is best friend's with his elderly cousin, proving that friendship need not be limited by age. The kites they give each other for Christmas are a symbol of their friendship.
Kites are also associated with childhood. Buddy is a child, and his sixty-something cousin is a child at heart. The two of them share an innocent joy in the traditions of the season and exist together in a world of joy, for Buddy because he is so young and for the cousin because she chooses to see the world this way. Their perception of innocence protects them from the hurtful things of the world - death, disease, social conflict. The carefree, floating kites could symbolize that innocence and how it allows the two friends to rise above the pain of everyday life.
Friendship is an important theme of the story, the narrator, Buddy, often telling stories about “my friend.” He asks her earlier in the story, “When you're grown up, will we still be friends?" And friends they remain, if only through letters, although through his relationship with her he realizes that the experience of childhood, that innocence and delight, exists only in memory. When Buddy was a child, they made each other kites, and these objects, like many in the story, become symbolic of their friendship. At the end of the story Buddy hears that she has died, and this news, he says "sever[s] from me an irreplaceable part of myself, letting it loose like a kite on a broken string. That is why, walking across a school campus on this particular December morning, I keep searching the sky. As if I expected to see, rather like hearts, a lost pair of kites hurrying toward heaven.” The kites again remind him of their friendship, each a heart—symbolic of love—which he will preserve in his memory.
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