Herb Benham column

Herb Benham

Nora, our 2½-year-old granddaughter, came over. I thought we’d had fun. We had, but grandparents and parents are gateway fun. The glittering rides lie ahead.

We’d made chocolate chip cookies, thrown the Frisbee, played “computer” on the old calculator I have and pretended as if we were flying to Seattle for dinner with her other grandmother for mac and cheese.

After an hour and half, it was time to go home and so we walked two blocks to Nora’s house. We raced (she won) and we looked for pecans, but the pecan tree on the corner might be done for the year or until the winds resume and rattle them down.

I could see Nora’s mother standing on the sidewalk ahead of us along with a much smaller person, who, from a block away, I didn’t recognize. Nora did because like most kids, she has friend-dar. This was her friend Ivy.

Nora took off, left her scooter, which I was carrying, the memory of the Rocky Mountain chocolate chip cookies she had eaten and the calculations she’d made on the adding machine. Ran from me to Ivy.

Ivy is 5 and lives next door to Nora. Ivy is her older friend.

This is no contest because there is hardly anything better for a little girl than having an older friend. One who will play with you. One who will show you the way.

Boys are different. If there is an older boy next door, he’s probably beating you up. If he’s not beating you up, he wants to beat you up unless he has a younger brother who he can beat up first before he beats you up too.

With girls, the possibilities are endless. Tea parties, dress-up parties, chase parties.

Weaving in and out on the sidewalks on their scooters, coloring with chalk and playing with dolls.

Decorating cupcakes and cookies and taking whacks at piñatas.

An older friend is like an older sister if you don’t have one. An older sister who is nice to you if the one you have, isn’t.

If a little girl is lucky, her first love will be the older girl next door. There is almost an impossible sweetness about that relationship, one that is hard to replicate later in life.

The older girl is not mean. Mean comes later. In junior high and high school where mean makes its entrance.

Katie, our daughter, had that with Rita when we lived on Holtby Road. With three brothers either present or on their way, any girl was welcome, but even better was that girl was an older girl.

Katie would wake up and be out the door. "I’m going to play with Rita," whether Rita was there or not.

Nora ran the last block to get to Ivy. I became invisible. I had company because so did her mother.

They played, chased each other and even included Ivy’s younger sister, Ari. If someone is nice to you, you’d better be nice to their younger sister. That goes with the territory.

I watched. There was nothing sad about it. This was the natural order of things. Affection flowing down the mountain from one person to the next.

The night got darker. The night got colder. The night got no closer to dousing the high spirits and the laughter on the front lawn.

Herb Benham is a columnist for the Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at hbenham@bakersfield.com or 661-395-7279.

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