Sunday, December 11, 2011
Every night when I come home the first thing I see is Ben’s heart.
It’s just a heart-shaped piece of green glittery paper that I have taped to my front door, but it means so much to me.
Up until recently, Ben was my four-year-old next-door neighbor. I knew I’d miss him after I moved, but I didn’t realize how much.
He gave me that green heart back in the summer as my sister and I were cleaning out our family’s house. Every weekend we’d look forward to seeing Ben poke his head in from outside and shout “Wob-ert!”
He would talk with us, look around the empty house, and then suddenly say, “I have to go now.” And off he’d go.
Ben is such a sweet kid, always willing to share things, which I find amazing for a child that age. I don’t think I was anywhere as near as generous when I was four years old, so Ben has taught me an important lesson.
We told him not to give us anything, but nevertheless Ben stopped by the house one time and gave my sister and me some balloons he had. Then he promptly ran for the door.
“You keep! You keep!” he said over his shoulder.
It was great having such a devoted fan. I offered to blow up a beach ball for him one afternoon and while I huffed and puffed, Ben cheered me on.
“Awesome! Awesome!” he yelled. “C’mon, Robert, you can do it!”
A Friend Indeed
I could do it, but it took a little more lungpower than I had expected. I finally got the thing inflated and handed it over to Ben. He stopped playing with it long enough to ask me a question.
“Do you have kids?” he asked.
No, I don’t, but if I did I’d want them to be just like Ben.
During this summer’s Senator Street block party, I got into a wild basketball game with a bunch of little girls who were visiting one of my neighbors.
They surrounded me, grabbed me from behind, tried to kick the ball away from me—it was more like the WWF than the NBA. But Ben jumped in between me and my tormenters and put his arms out, determined to be my bodyguard.
“Those girls are cuckoo,” I said when the game family ended.
“Those girls are tutu,” Ben added. Oh, well, close enough…
One day I watched Ben crossing the street with his grandmother and her homecare aid. The grandmother was on a walker, the aid was busy helping the old lady, and Ben was standing next to them. They looked so vulnerable as they stepped off the sidewalk.
“I’m going to the park!” Billy told me, all excited.
I winced imagining these three being exposed to the cuckcoos that drive around here. I told them to wait until there were absolutely no cars coming down the block.
When the street was finally clear, the three of them started across with Ben putting his hand out in the traffic cop position. Atta boy, Ben.
After we closed on the house my sister and I stopped by Ben’s house to say goodbye. We had to go now.
“You give me your phone number,” he said.
I gave Ben my card, though I don’t expect him to call. He’s a kid and I’m a grown man-more or less-but I do get tempted sometimes to knock on his door and ask if Ben can come out and play.
I’m glad for the time I had with Ben. He has a special place in my heart and he’s welcome to it.
You keep, Ben. You keep.