you and you and you and us: five

"This is the beFOUR, I say," tucking you into bed. 

You look at each other, like, whut?

"Get it. Because you're about to turn five? Befour. Be four. You be four NOW but not four long?"

"Um. Okay, mama."

"Silly mama." 

I stretch out my fingers and you place your hands in mine. One in the left and one in the right. We've been doing kissing hand before school starts and now before bed, I kiss your palms and you kiss my palms and I kiss your palms and you kiss mine. 

We lie down in a pile, your bodies stretched out like cats against my chest, hangnails scratching at my knees, and I think, "this is perfect, this is magic, this is... 

Suddenly a fist whirls by my face and then an elbow coming from the other direction and soon enough I'm the mat and you're the wrestling match. You scream and you cry and then you are both screaming and crying and she kicked me first no you did no you did no you. 

... life."
You wake up like a shot and come barreling down the hallway. You're not dressed yet because you don't want to get dressed yet. Because getting dressed yet is what everyone else does and you want to do things differently. You want to go right when everyone else goes left.  You want to crack eggs before the sun fills the house with light.

I look for you, half asleep. The trim of my sweat pants dragging through a puddle you don't even know you made.

"Bo? Are you drinking La Croix at 6am?"

You take a swig of Pamplemousse and shrug.

You are making your own breakfast in your underwear. You stand on a chair and crack the eggs against the burning pot. You're singing as you scrape the sides of the pan with the spatula.

"I'm making eggs," you say, when I ask what you're doing. "I'm making a momelette."

You offer me a sip of your soda water and I drink it -- because, okay, sure, why not. For five years, I've happened upon scenes just like this one. It feels perfectly normal to drink fizzy water and watch you flip eggs before I'm even fully awake. Being your mother is like living LIFE WITH THE VOLUME ALL THE WAY UP. ALARM CLOCK ON HIGH. BEEP BEEP BEEP.

I'm up! I'm here! I'm alive!

You make me feel alive, you know that? 

"Can I help you?" I ask, watching you fish an eggshell out of the pan.

"That's okay," you smile. "I got this under control."

You always say that to me. You say that to me while attempting to carry an entire table by yourself. You say that to me when I try to hold your hand in the sea, the ocean waves swirling around your waist. You say that to me when you're loading the dishwasher, carrying cups of water outside, bombing a hill on a skateboard, unfurling the garden hose to fill a bucket by yourself.

And yet. Somehow...

- even when you fall down face first into the surf
- even when you drop the table
- break a glass
- spill the water
- skin your knee
- break the hose on accident

... I know that you do.

I know that you have it under control. 

So I clean up the mess in the hallway as you sing ROW ROW ROW YOUR BOAT at the top of your lungs. I throw away your egg shells. I ask you to please get dressed after breakfast.

And even though you throw your shoulders back and roll your eyes to the ceiling, I know you hear me. I know you get it. I know, eventually, when you realize I'm not going to press you on it again... you'll go get dressed. In mismatched socks and hot pink cowboy boots. And a dress that is either too small, or four sizes too big.

... And when I call your name from outside, your sisters echoing your name LIKE COME ON WE'LL BE LATE, I know that you'll come bounding through the front door, twisting and twirling and dancing and karate chopping the air.

Exactly as you always do.

Every morning.
IMG_6845 ***
You tip toe to my bedside and ask if you can cuddle. You say please, even though you are already under the covers by the time I say, "of course." You've had a bad dream and you want to be close. Your body is sweaty like it was when you were a baby and you smell of powder even though we've skipped baths the last two nights. You play with my hair as you drift asleep -- a reflex you have had since infancy -- a need to take care of others, even when you're the one who's scared.

You burrow into my arm, your hair matted to your forehead with sweat. You tell me "I love you" over and over and I tell you I love you back until our words overlap and fade into each other. Until we are both asleep, belly to belly. Until a loud noise rattles me out of bed the next morning and you roll over onto your back, open your eyes and say, "good morning. I love you. Good morning."

You say good morning to your father. Your brother. Your sister. You hug everyone with both arms, make sure everyone knows they are loved before they head into the kitchen for breakfast.

You examine your clothes, delicately placed in piles by the foot of your bed, socks folded in shoes, everything carefully selected from your closet the night before.

You take your time getting dressed, decide on a different pair of socks -- a twirlier skirt. I call for you from the kitchen and you think long and hard about what you're going to eat.

"Avocado toast," you finally say. You hug your sister and tell her she looks beautiful as I put the bread in the toaster and wait for it to ding.

And then, out of nowhere, as everyone is eating their breakfast, you say, "Wouldn't it be so weird if a baby had huge boobs? Like a really small baby with boobs like a mama? Wouldn't that be hilarious."

I'm crying I'm laughing so hard. Archer is choking on his cereal and Fable has fallen out of her chair. You laugh, too. Bo is slapping her knee like an old man at a hoedown and we all can't believe we've lived this long as people without imagining a baby with boobs.

A baby with boobs!!!

Later on, as I'm driving you to school, you'll give me unsolicited advice when I tell you I'm the worst with names.

"If you don't know someone's name just call them 'hey you' and they'll turn around," you'll say.

And then you'll flash me a thumbs up and an "I love you so much."

And I will thank you and tell you that every time you say that it feels amazing. It never gets old. And you'll smile and kiss my cheek before getting out of the car after your sisters...  turning toward me as I drive away, the only one who looks back.
IMG_6650 ***
Underneath your flailing bodies, I'm yelling at you to stop.


"You're not coming to my party," you say.

"Well, you're not coming to MY party," you say back.




Dual party. Duel party. Dual party. 

look at each other and start to laugh, like can you believe this shit? IF WE UNINVITE EACH OTHER TO OUR OWN PARTY THERE WILL BE NO PARTY. BEING TWINS IS THE WORST... 

"I don't want to be twin sisters with you anymore," you say, forcing a pout.

"Well I don't want to be twin sisters with YOU anymore," you say, sputtering to keep from smiling.

And then something happens, as it so often does -- your push-apart becomes a pull-together and everything is suddenly forgiven -- like a balloon you must fully inflate in order to let go.

And then...

You take your kissing hand and stretch your fingers out in front of your sister and you hold your hand up against hers , palm to palm and it takes you a minute to line up your fingers just right. Your fingers are longer and your palm sticks out under your sister's hand. You shift your hands trying to get your five fingers to touch in a way that suits you, your giggles on medium, then high, then super XXXL -- until, finally, hands clasped, you fall over laughing.
IMG_5130 IMG_5140 Happy Birthday to you.
IMG_5138 (And you.)
IMG_5129 And you --my glorious, laborious girls. You are my heart and I love you with everything.