birthday, Nora

For Twin B, on the eve of her 5th birthday

You were born early in the morning on the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, forty minutes after your sister. I had never thought too much about this feast, and it seemed an odd match. The day dawned bright and sunny in a string of bright and sunny days, the way Septembers in Virginia so often are, with clear blue skies and smatterings of wispy white clouds.

Now you are (both) five.

You wrote yourself a birthday card today, decorated with hearts and smiley faces and flowers. You slid it into an envelope and placed it carefully on top of the piano. “I’m planning to forget all about it so that I can surprise myself with it tomorrow,” you furtively whispered, hiding it behind a hymnal.

By the time you came back to the table, your sister was making a card for herself, too.

I have sisters, too, you know. I know how it is to love fiercely and envy fiercely and feel devotion and competition all rolled up into one confusing ball of emotion. Still, I was unprepared this morning when you told me that you wished you weren’t a twin.

“If I wasn’t a twin,” you said through gritted teeth, eyeing your sister while she pretended to be busy coloring her card, “I’d never have to share my things. And you, Mama. You would be ALL MINE.”

I guess that is how we’re most different. I had three years with my parents before I had a sister, and you’ve never had a moment without one in your whole existence. Even in the womb, you were shoving each other constantly, competing for space. As toddlers, you bit and pulled each other’s hair. Now you fight over the pinkest cup, the favorite spoon, the last cheese stick, the princess dress without the snag in the skirt.

When you hold hands, I hold my breath- in an instant, it seems, you’ll be rolling on the floor trying to pluck out each other’s eyebrows with your fingernails. The sisterly sweetness is so very sweet and so very short-lived.

It doesn’t help, I’m sure, that you’re so different from each other- one pragmatic action-taker forced into partnership with one dreamy wanderer. It doesn’t help that people want to categorize you constantly- the friendly one, the shy one, the clever one, the athletic one. I try not to let them, but people draw their own conclusions based on what they see.

You have big feelings, I know. I know they fill up your throat and make you twitch. I see that you need me to know just how big they are, need me to see that they are overflowing and overtaking and overshadowing and overwhelming. Language is inadequate. A box of crayons hurled across the room, though? A pencil bitten in half? That’s just right.

You’d help yourself, you know, if you were less like me.

And maybe this is where Our Lady of Sorrows comes in?

I clearly remember my mother standing in the kitchen of our house, my pre-teenaged face gripped tightly in her hands, hissing what I came to think of as her motherly prophecy for my own mothering:

“One day, you will have a daughter…and she will be just…like…you!”

So you see, my dear, if you’ve inherited my less endearing traits, it isn’t actually my fault. Call your grandmother and ask her about it.

I bet she will have lots of stories to tell you.

Happy birthday, my darling. I think you are wonderful exactly the way you are. Even when your big feelings trigger big feelings in me and I’m not sure whether to laugh, sob, or scream, I will always love you. One day, you may have a daughter, too, and I will remind you that you are an excellent mother. And if she happens to be just…like…you, I will smile quietly and send you some flowers and an encouraging note.

I have no doubt that you will change the world, my dear. I can’t wait to see what the next year brings for you…not just as half of a twinship, but as your very own self.

Love always,
your Mama


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