The alarm cuts through the dark, jerking my soul out of its reverie. I was dreaming that I was asleep.
What kind of person dreams that she is sleeping? Probably only a really tired one, right? Struggling to sit up without waking the baby beside me, I think the last time I felt well-rested was probably before the twins were born.
Today, they are four years old.
I stare out the window at the silhouette of the mulberry tree against the barely light sky, remembering how the window of our hospital room overlooked a flat roof and a bare brick wall.
Four years ago today, they broke upon the world before the sun did, making their entrances at 5:15 and 5:55 AM, respectively. The mere forty minutes between their births gave us no hint of the gulf between their personalities. There is love between them, of course…but sweet tea parties and sisterly hand-holding are often overshadowed by screaming matches and sisterly pinches over the imaginary line on the sofa.
The gradual coloring of the sky this morning reminds me of their birthday. I watch the grey outside the kitchen window get lighter and eventually turn to a yellowish pink as I put the finishing touches on packages and cupcakes (pink and yellow frosted with gold sprinkles). It’s critical that there are an equal number of yellow and pink cupcake wrappers, as they’ve taken to counting such things and accusing me of loving one more than the other. One requested pumpkin pancakes, and one requested toaster strudel from the freezer case at the grocery store for breakfast. I make sure their favorite skirts are clean to wear with their self-selected birthday t-shirts- one grey with a heart and one kind of a neon cantaloupe with sparkly cupcakes. The skirts were requested ahead of time, also, and if I mix them up, the girls will definitely let me know. “This is one of those important things, Mama, so please remember,” Nora told me last night. It’s funny, because I know they’ll only wear them until after breakfast, when they go to change into their dress up costumes like they do every day right now.
Maybe it seems like a long list of arrangements for such little girls. I labored a full day and a half to bring them into the world, though- what’s a few requests between a mother and her daughters?
I put the packages on the table and set out two princess hats, embellished with initials and sparkly rick rack trim.
How far we have fallen, we forward-thinking parents whose daughters would be mighty and strong, who would have no use for such pink, such sparkle, such over-the-top girly stuff!
The irony almost drips from the rosy-colored hat as I hold it up to adjust the streamers.
But these girls are no run of the mill Disney princesses. These are wild-haired, wide-open, sword-wielding, blaster-toting, space-exploring archaeologist princesses who happen to like pink and yellow. These princesses will rescue a baby bird and chop to bits any monster who tries to hurt it. They will tease each other without mercy, but if you mess with one of them, the other one will bite you. They'll share their toys with friends and even brothers sometimes, but they'll fight anyone to the death over their favorite spot on the swing set.
And the fighting...oh, it is epic. They battle ferociously for the right to wear the pink fairytale dress, the knight helmet, the cherry nightgown. Instead of celebrating their birth, I sometimes think we should be celebrating their survival. They are surviving each other.
On the other hand, they are never more united than when they're making mischief- defeating a childproof lock to ransack a bathroom cabinet, painting the bathtub with shaving cream, climbing out of their cribs and emptying every drawer and cabinet in their room, unrolling all the toilet paper down the hall, drawing all over the freshly painted deck railing with a red colored pencil, sneaking out of bed on the eve of their fourth birthday to play dress up in the playroom.
They are no cliche. They are a force with which we must all reckon. And today, we celebrate both their strength and our own.
Happy birthday, girls. Here's to many more princess battles, tea parties and kite flying afternoons. I love being your mom, even though I sometimes wonder if I will survive it. Thank you for the sunshine, the music, the color and the sparkle you bring to our family...and for ensuring that none of us will ever be bored.