In walks Nola. The diaper around her waist does not stop her from sporting an elegant swagger. She surveys the scene with a steady nod as if to take note of all the places she will venture over the course of the afternoon.

“Hey Nola,” I say.

“I got a sword,” she announces.

I look to her mother for confirmation, she shakes her head to validate the information, “She insisted on a sword.”

“Nola, why did you need a sword?”

“To get the flies,” she says with a half raised eyebrow and complete conviction.

That Nola is so cool. Anyone else would have gone with a fly swatter but this toddler plans to eliminate the bugs “gladiator style”.

At our picnic lunch Nola tells me when my daughter has buried her sandwich under the sand and lets me know that Sage is “a little bit thirsty”. She shares her yogurt snack without a word of protest and when my daughter trips on a tree root Nola pats her back and whispers that it will “be okay in just a minute.” Man, that Nola is mature. Later at the park Nola lets my daughter go first down the slide. When a boy who must be at least six, tries to cut in front of my kid Nola puts her hand firmly on his shoulder. “Hey big boy, it’s my friend Sage’s turn!”

Nola’s always got your back.

She’s the kind of friend you hope your kid will have. She’s kind and creative, smart and funny. Though she’s just a toddler I can imagine her being the girl that my daughter some day confides in.

And as I sit there watching them play it occurs to me that my daughter is that friend too. Though I’m only now beginning to see her interact with others I can tell that she’s going to be a gathering force. She rallies the troops. She conjures magic. “This is my dance,” she cries out as she teachers a crew of two-year-olds how to play air guitar. She sings her way through most days and shares stories like they are living things wriggling in her hands.

A few weeks ago we were at the beach and a gaggle of seven-year-olds were trading coloring books and whispering under a tree. My daughter inched towards them as if they had her on a leash and were slowly pulling her close. Before she knew it she was standing in the center of their circle and giving this look like, “Hey, how did I end up her?” I could see her searching for something to say, something to justify her sudden presence. “I have crayons,” she blurted and the girls giggled like, “what does that have to do with anything?”

I knew why Sage had chosen to say that. I wanted to defend her. I wanted to translate her words so these big girls would understand. “Hey you morons, you are holding coloring books. She wants to let you know that she can hang. She’s got tools to color with. You could use her goods. She wants to play.”

But I held my tongue.

Sage gave an awkward smile. I curled my toes and held my breath.

“Bye,” the girls said, shooing her away.

“Your loss!” I wanted to shout as the girls went back to their whispers and my daughter ran to my side.

“Hey,” I said as I swooped her up, “Someday you and Nola will share your coloring books with a little girl and she will be so excited.”

“Yeah” said Sage “And we will all color together.”

That Sage is so cool.