Local Lifestyle

Saturday, Mar 30 2013 12:01 PM

HERB BENHAM: What can be better than a perfect Sunday?

By The Bakersfield Californian

Sundays, usually good, sometimes are perfect. "It's graduation day," said across-the-street Kristen, talking about her four boys recently.

Not school graduation, but bike. Winters can favor growth and each of the boys seems bigger than he was a few months ago.

The boys had grown larger, but their bikes hadn't. Some would inherit their bigger brother's bike and, at least one lucky boy, having nobody in front, was looking at blue sky and an open road.

Kristen lined up the four bikes against the white picket fence in descending order. That's a picture. An enduring one.

"I don't like the brakes," said David, the youngest. "They stop too quick."

Enthusiasts talk about new-bike joy, but seldom new-bike anxiety. This bike feels strange. Maybe I'll never like it.

Five minutes later, David did. He was sketching figure-eights up and down the street. The newly minted graduates were outfitted, fitted and ready to ride.

The perfect Sunday is warm but not hot. It vibrates with possibility -- what to do first. I turned my attention toward the garden. A garden swings between order and chaos, and sometimes it's fun to let it go rather than weed, prune and trim.

The radish plants, now 5 feet high, feral and in bloom, have benefitted from letting go of the reins.

Weeks ago, I picked a radish and it was barely a radish. Unable to undo it, I walked away from the remaining radishes, vowing to let them grow and grow they did. Sunday, I pulled out a radish. It was almost as big as a cylindrical cantaloupe. I brushed off the chunks of wet soil and walked across the street to show the bike graduates. A big radish is almost as interesting to boys as a two-headed pollywog.

"Have you ever seen a bigger radish?" I asked.

They hadn't. I hadn't either. Neither had Kristen and Byron, their parents.

It was six months to the Kern County Fair. What if I left the rest of the radishes in until September? I could win a prize. I would need a 7-ton crane to clear the fence.

"I have a catalog from Wisconsin that has giant fruits and vegetables," said Rose my next-door neighbor, when I showed her the radish. Rose, humor me. Tell me you've never seen a bigger radish, not even in your dreams.

On a perfect Sunday, you don't mind weeding. The bike graduates do mind because weeding is anathema to children. Weeding is like hiking to them. Why would anybody want to walk 10 miles unless there was a new bike and a fresh carton of Fig Newtons at the end?

Weeding is domestic servitude and occasionally an adult pleasure. When the soil is moist and easy and the temperature is 74, weeding is a joy. Sourgrass, which looks like a leggier clover with yellow flowers, is a confidence builder. Necessary confidence because nut grass, sowing its subterranean mischief, lies ahead.

If you wanted to move, Sunday was the day.

"Dad, can we go to the mini-storage and get the bed?" Sam asked.

Yes, we can and did. Sam, prepared as usual, had the longest, newest rope I've ever seen. A skilled cowboy could have lassoed Fresno with it.

Mattress, box spring --coffee table on top, a slow drive 15 blocks from the mini-storage on Truxtun and Oak to his house.

The bed frame took a few minutes to assemble. Sunday was perfect, but it still had an intelligence test -- one that, for a minute, I thought we might fail. It's easy to get rusty when you haven't seen a bed frame in a while but eventually, in spite of ourselves, we clamped the frame into place and readied it to receive the box spring and mattress.

We walked into the back yard. I drilled a hole into the eave on the left side of the steps, hand-screwed in the gold hook and hung the Woodstock wood chimes. If a breeze had sprung up, and the heavenly choir had sung, it would have been better.

A perfect Sunday, however, is miracle enough.

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