Perigee three

15 09 2016


The girls, when I started this post (already almost a month ago), were halfway through their third set of magic months: the 1/6th of the year between their backwards birthdays wherein they’re just one year apart. It’s magic because it’s how they were born as sisters, Evanny still only one to Tabba’s zero, because it catches them at their closest, because the proximity of consecutive numbers makes their difference seem so small as to be negligible entirely (we say things like “a small group, just four or five people” because whether 4 were there or 5 wouldn’t matter: they’re practically the same), and they’ve started sharing clothes already, not because they’re the same size, but Evanny’s so long in the torso that some of her size 3’s have to be handed down already, even though the shoulders fit her fine, some of them hang off both girls’ necks (but only cover Tabba’s belly) and some of them are cut so slim that they work on either little body; which girl it is only really shows in whether they go down to hips or knees.  There are, of course, some items that only work for one body or the other, but the overlap is much more extensive than I’d have expected, especially considering how tall and lanky Ev is growing as she rapidly approaches the fine, fine age of four.  This is helped, unsurprisingly, by how many of their favorite play clothes are too big for either of them, so it doesn’t really matter who they’re draping vaguely off of or tripping at the knees.

On a family outing to see a sunflower field that turned out to have already faded for the season (a common trouble we seem to run into around here), the girls, mermaids always drawn to water, found a pond with a fountain in it and crawled out onto a tiny pier to watch it burble together.

“Play Elsa-Anna now?”

Because sometimes two doesn’t feel like enough, the pair sometimes gets to missing their brother, which might lead to a costume-change transition from running around naked to digging through his clothes and then wearing around his t-shirts as dresses.

They overlap in most things as well as or better than in clothing: they play with all of the same toys, sharing almost every object (or fighting about every object, but that’s almost never about what the object is, just about who had it first and who decided it must be hers based solely on the golden glow it took on simply by being in her sister’s hands instead of her own), sharing bath time, soap, toys, and games of imagination, wearing the same animal-or-character towels when damn and clean-scented, lining up to have Daddy brush out their ever-lengthening hair, sharing a huge collection of interchangeable socks, pretending to wear the same several-size-up hand-me-down shoes cluttering the downstairs hallway, pulling the same stunts in the splash pool (or bathtub–where they’re both still, but for not much longer, small enough to lie full-length side-by-side, elbow to elbow, to dip their curls into the water and blow bubbles): knee-skids, belly-flops, chase-and-slip games, fountain-spouts, and any and all manners of splashing, of course. Inclinations of all kinds go the same way, not just the chosen-toy variety: if one gets naked, the other one wants to be naked.  If one wants an outfit change, they both need an outfit change.  If one wants any type of food, the other one wants some too, even if she’s just eaten and is ostensibly full.  If one drops her undies for a toilet-trip, the other one peels off her diaper to go sit on the toddler-potty beside her.  There’s also an adorable sense of the necessity of trading as part of the fun of shared person-hood.  They tussle over the carseats–each has her own that’s the right size for her age/weight, but each one wants to pretend to be the other one and sit in the other seat, so sometimes when we get home from preschool we hang around in the driveway for a half-hour while they indulge that game with the car turned off.  They like to drive me batshit at bedtime by tucking themselves into each other’s beds (where neither will be content to stay, so it’s always a staying mechanism).  And they like to announce themselves as a rotating cast of family members, but in this game, the hierarchy of age (as they understand it) is inviolate “I Mama,” Tabitha will say, and point at her sister. “You Daddy.  Dis [shaking the doll in her hand for emphasis] Tabitha.  Tiny baby.”  Or “I Evanny.  You Caleb. Dis [toy animal] Betty [their Poppa’s dog].” (None of the children really believe that I’m the oldest: family drawings always have the daddy figure taller than the mommy figure, as is true at our house too, and for small folks, size and age are automatic, hand-in-hand developments.)

At the end of a busy school “day,” sometimes one is too tired to nap, and if one is too tired to nap, both are too tired to nap, which can lead to lying around on the bedroom floor together contentedly watching nursery rhyme animations on the old iPhone.

“Augh, let’s just go up to the playroom.  C’mon, Tab!”

Pony time!  Every game in my purview is a negotiation bordering on a fight, but I suspect they do this primarily for my benefit; there seem to be many fewer quarrels when I’m out of the room.

Their togetherness is a daily marvel for me; I love how they say each others’ names, how they invite each other to play, how no matter how much they spat and quarrel, a few minutes later they’ll be cooperating again.  If Evanny’s caught being a brat to her sister and is sent to her room, Tabitha will immediately follow her there, crime forgotten in her hurry to be sure her sister is okay (“Evvy cry!”).  If Evanny throws a fit demanding some object or another, nine times out of ten Tab will give it to her just to please her (but only after making a fierce showing out of absolutely totally not sharing one bit).  When Tabitha is dragged off, by my dad, to her room for a nap against her will (is there any other way), I can hear her wailing, “I want my Mommy” interspersed in equal measure with “I want my Evanny!”  When light is rolling into the sky and Evanny is faced with having to get up and get her clothes on in preparation for half-day preschool, her most common protests include “but I want to play with Tabitha!” and “I’ll miss my sister.”  When Ev is at school and Tab and I stop running from task to task for long enough for her to notice that she’s lonely, the mantra starts: “I miss my Evanny.  Evanny school?  Pick up Evanny RIGHT NOW.”  When Tabba (as a last-week afternoon) is a punk and steals her sister’s last chocolate chip, and I take away the rest of her snack-treat in punishment, and then I give Ev two new chips as compensation, she turns immediately and gives one to the punky, punished thief.  When Tabba (as this afternoon) is a punk and wipes avocado all over her sister’s arms after she whines at her repeatedly to stop it, and then chucks her pizza in protest when I install her in her high chair out of reach, which promptly gets her hauled off to the pack-n-play for a time-out, it’s less than 30 seconds before her sister, the one just moments ago moaning about her maligned avocado arms, has gone to “check on her” and crawled into the pack-n-play with the exiled punk.  I wondered how people managed to instill it, that magic sibs-trump-all belief system that I’ve heard and read about but rarely glimpsed during my own childhood, but I needn’t have; they’ve figured it out on their own, much too young to even talk about the accord.  Apparently it just grows in some yards, like forget-me-nots or dandelions.

“Go dance around in that sunbeam for a minute,” I said in an attempt to purchase two whole minutes to spend cleaning up the crumb-and-shmear blast radius of two under-4s having a celebrate-the-end-of-a-successful-first-week-of-school special cream-cheese and bagel lunch.  So they did.

“Evanny! Wait me!”

At the splash pad on the playground along our route to and from Evanny’s school, the girls fill their shirts/dresses with flying droplets and give new meaning to the term “water babies”–“There’s a baby in my belly!”  “Belly cold!”

There is nothing Evanny can do on a playground that Tabitha won’t try, except for sliding down poles, for the simple reason that Tab’s short legs don’t reach the pole at all, and one can’t slide just by wishing; otherwise, there’s no slide or ladder too high, no swing too long of chain, no splash-pad too harsh of spray, no distance-from-the-car too long to sprint, shorter legs or not.  There is no bedtime that doesn’t involve a wrestling match, except “match” isn’t really the word, or maybe it’s a better word: there isn’t so much a contest as a need for contact fueling the pile-up, steamroll, feet-knees-bellies-heads convergence.  There is no meal with just the family that doesn’t include requests to sit next to one another (the table, currently, has 6 seats for 4 people not in high chairs, and none are really designated by habit yet, the house being too new to us and the summer having been too long and full of strange and varied kitchens); there is no day that passes without at least one hug, one “Evvy push me!”, one boop on the nose, and usually some intrusive kisses from the older to the younger when she’s asleep and I’m hissingly attempting to keep her that way.  “But I just want to kiss her!” The other day, over at Katy’s, I helped the smallest into a borrowed dress so she could run and join the princess game with the big girls. When I found her next, they were all three on the play-structure out in the yard, Evanny at the top of the slide, dangling down in fake distress, yelling “help, help!” and Tab bolting across the grass as fast as her little legs in long pink ruffles could carry her: “I save you, sister! I coming!”

Tabitha demonstrates that anywhere Evanny goes, she’s right on her heels and ready to follow, no matter how high, or how slick their hands are from playing in the creek down the hill, or how far the gap-step at the top might be from the ladder (she made it, unassisted, fyi).

“I’m Elsa.  You be Anna.  Here, you can wear this dress.”

On a random Sunday evening, the sisters decide together that they have to change clothes before bedtime.  Into (each others’ hand-me-down) Batman pajamas (E’s in a too-big size 6 or 7 shirt of Caleb’s).  And then go outside and play in the hose until they were both soaking wet and needed to change clothes before bedtime again.

They will throw in together for any fandom, although Ev, as the eldest, chooses movies five times out of six and predictably insists on “being” the older, more royal, or more princessy of the available characters whenever possible in their imaginative play. Most of the time Tab is fine with this, agreeing without debate to be Anna, Pascal, some member whose name I can’t remember of the lion guard, or BB-8.  Something about the idea of mermaids is deeply important to her, though, and she digs her heels in on refusing to be Flounder; if I can’t convince them to be two mermaid sisters, I end up with two Ariels sulking in different spaces, the elder refusing to play with her sister “ever again” if she can’t have her way, the younger gamely shouting back “I done you, Ev-a-NEE!”  They couldn’t mean it less, however, and can’t maintain the divide for more than about 3 minutes before somebody cracks.

Trying to play a game on the porch-table with Lydia and Darcy, and share snacks, with only three chairs between them (and dressed, monkey-see, both in Sofia-the-first attire, even though this required that one of them spend the entire day in a nightgown), the girls wedge into one narrow seat together, Tab barely hanging on to Evvy’s only-slightly-larger “yap.”

“Go peyyoom me?  Now?  Evvy, mon.”

  “We” is probably the most-used word in Evanny’s home vocabulary right now. “We need the door closed because we’re playing house.” “We want to be ballerinas!” “We don’t want to pick up toys. You can do it” (On this score, the “we” is a lie; Tabitha loves to work together to pick up toys). “We don’t want to go to bed; we’re not tired.” “We want to watch a movie. Can we watch Ariel?” “We’re hungry!” “We want to go in the splash pool.” “We want you to tell us a story.” In part, of course, this is simply smart tactics in action: Mom and Dad are more likely to agree to a thing if they believe both children want it equally than if there’s a dispute, and in parts it’s just speed: she’s quick enough to name the wants and let the power of suggestion do the talking for her that Tab’s on board before she even thinks about wanting something different.  But it’s also genuine sharing: Evanny wants those things, and assumes Tabitha does too, because they tend to like the same things, and also Evanny wants those things more if she gets to share them with her sister than she’d want them if he were on her own.  She won the State Fair lottery this year: our friend Crista came into town and wanted to take a kid to the Fair, and Caleb was gone for the weekend, and Tab needed napping and wasn’t allowed on most of the rides anyway, so we arranged the day so that only Evanny got that coveted second trip to ride rides and eat ice cream and be showered with unadulterated adult attention; Evanny came home with a sunburn, an ice-cream-sticky face, a half-eaten Hello Kitty cookie, and another, untouched cookie still in its wrapper, because when offered the one, she’d immediately and without hesitation asked for another to take home to her sister.  Tabitha didn’t know where she was, didn’t know she was missing out; she and I did something else with our time instead and had a fine go of it, but Evanny couldn’t be without her without bringing something home for her–and then ended up sharing the remaining half of the open cookie with her sister too (in fact, the still-wrapped one still is, because between then and now, they’ve been too busy soaking up the end of Gannon’s season and sharing ice-cream to even remember the cookie on the shelf!).  When, the two days a week that Tab is at Katy’s, I pick up Evanny first from school, and we got to collect Tabitha, Evanny is almost immediately drawn away upon arrival by the promise of some big-girl play time with Katy’s daughter, her old friend Lulu, and although the older girls always come around within ten minutes or so to letting the little ones play dress up too, there’s a heart-wail first from the smallest, who’s been away from her sister ALL MORNING LONG and has only just seen her long enough for a hello-goodbye before she disappears into Lu’s room–“I miss my EVANNYYYYYY!” Because, you know.  The love.




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