Tag – I’m it! Waking up on our birthday last year to one of the most moving letters I have ever received was a gift of immeasurable love. Throughout this year, I have looked back on the words you wrote in times of celebration and happiness, as well as in times of doubt or sadness. I oftentimes read it when I am missing you and wishing we were together… That said, I thought I would take a turn!
Happy Birthday to you my 3 minutes older identical twin sister. You may have entered this world first but I wasn’t about to let you stay there long without me right by your side. You see, right by your side is where I was gifted to be 44 years ago and is where I pray to be for as long as possible. Sometimes I wonder what life would be like without a twin sister like you. You are incredibly thoughtful and kind with a heart of solid gold yet hilariously sarcastic and real. You are bigger than life to me and I love watching our lives unfold side by side. Your energy is captivating and I am beyond proud of the person you are.
By your side when we were toddlers meant us creating our own language (so we're told) consisting of us babbling to each other and then giggling until we drove mom crazy (no surprise there). We made perfect sense to each other while no one else understood what we were saying. It meant chasing each other around the shag-carpeted living room on our red Radio Flyer tricycles with the streamers flowing and pigtails blowing behind us as fast as our legs would take us. Playing in our tiny plastic circular pool filled up with the garden hose children of the 70s had in their back yard was our weekend favorite in Houston, Texas. The tiny angled slide into it was like a massive water slide to us in our matching cutout daisy one-piece bathing suits. It meant always having someone to sit on the other side of the teeter-totter toy we had in our family room.
Upon moving to Atlanta we were separated into different Kindergarten classes to encourage us to form our own identities. Thus, we created a signal to be able to communicate whatever problem there might be with one another. After asking the teacher for a bathroom pass we would go to the other one's classroom outside the closed door and cough just once then head to the girls' room. Without a doubt, the other one of us would hear it, recognize it and ask for a pass as well. There we would talk about the mean boy who pushed the other one on the playground, the teacher we were afraid of or what cabbage patch dolls and Barbie games to play after school. Mostly the cough was to gain comfort and strength together by being there by each other's side. You weighed in at a whopping 4 pounds at birth while I nicknamed "crawdad" by our grandpa managed only 3lb. Being just a tiny bit taller all our lives reinforced the fact that to me, you have always been a force to be reckoned with and my rock to lean on. You would take care of business and push the mean boys back for me during recess and more. Largely though you and I leaned on each other so much that we didn’t feel the need to make other friends and get out of our little twin bubble. We were content right by each other’s side.
In High School a few moves and states later we found our way out of our shy inner selves and began to become the fiercely independent women we are today. We figured out that though we are gifted with this unbreakable bond, we truly are individuals. We can attest to the fact that twins are indeed competitive. Playing each other to determine who would play which court for the tennis team resulted in some massive screaming fights as well as who was going to wear what that weekend to the party. Academically our GPAs were always within a tenth of a point of one another always pushing each other to keep studying and not to let up.
Never give less than 100% is a lesson we are lucky to have been taught by both our mom and dad. I feel certain dad would be proud of us if he were here today. Giving everything in life 100% was a big value of his as well as to always be on time. I can remember him screaming at us to get in the car to get us to school on time with pieces of toast wrapped in paper towels for us while we were more concerned with our super bright red lipstick and obnoxious blue eye makeup and accessories to individualize our Episcopalian School Uniforms. To this day neither one of us sets aside time for breakfast and I find myself getting in my car with pieces of toast in hand for my kids too. Memories of you by my side driving our bright red Chevy Beretta around town listening and singing at the top of our lungs to “Free Fallin" after a breakup, "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" on the way to school feels like yesterday. Belting out U2 and Journey windows down on the way over the bay or to the gulf take me back. We felt on top of the world some days! The fact that we both still remember the same cheerleading dance to C & C Music Company “Gonna Make You Sweat” is one of our party tricks I hope we never lose.
Together and by my side at Alabama meant dreadfully staying up cramming for tests late night fueled by the gas station type coffee machine in our sorority house and animal cracker cookies. Our daily long runs (conveniently by fraternity row) allowed for some great talks about life, relationships, and goals that I take with me in my heart. Together we worked for the party photo company Zap, Live Bait seafood restaurant at the beach and the oh so embarrassing Kenny Rogers Roasters fast food restaurant in Mobile, Alabama. Our priceless uniform consisted of black jeans (which weren’t cool then) paired with black high tops (also not cool) that would squeak when we came home. The ensemble was completed with Roasters shirt, hat and hair in a hair net – HOT!☺ I'd be remiss if I didn't bring up my luck when I was assigned the "greeter" job most days while you were backstage making the cafeteria type food line happen. There might be memories of you stirring slaw (coleslaw) in a huge trash can type tub with what appeared to be a witch’s broom-ish tool that still make me laugh… I would delightfully open the door and say to the customers “Hey Y'all welcome to Kenny Rogers Roasters!! Come on in grab a tray and say hey to my twin sister down there… y'all she’s on slaw!” ☺ Your shoes squeaked more than mine those days☺
One year after graduation after working for rival accounting firms In Mobile I felt as though I was stabbing myself in the heart when I said to you I was debating moving to a big city. I told you that I was going to move with or without you. Internally, I wondered if I actually meant it. There are no words to explain my excitement when you finally agreed to come and our Chicago adventure ensued. I believe those years taught us to be the women we strive to be today; strong but sweet, smart but silly, spontaneous and loving. Independent but always wanting more words of affirmation (that one for sure goes for both of us!) Those years still involved the cough. The cough would occur walking by each other’s cubicle in that beautiful high rise on Lake Michigan resulting in the ladies’ room discussion of what the plans were for that night or what Country we were traveling to next with our jobs.
What strikes me is that though those years were some of our most memorable, they surely have not been outdone by memories of late… That’s the thing about us, and I wonder if true for all twins. It seems our relationship never stops GROWING. I find our time together now as adults is filled with more laughter and love than ever before. Or maybe it’s just that my love for you continues to grow with every day and every memory. Regardless, I am honored to have been born your twin sister, and I will be here by your side today and every day for as long as I am lucky to be....no cough needed.
Happy Birthday Jen and cheers to us … may we continue to live life to its fullest together side by side.