Sunday, May 20, 2012

Feeling Like a Number?

My sister is 7 years younger than I am.  We look and sound very alike, but couldn't be more different unless we'd  been raised in different countries. But when we were younger, my mother often began her sentences with, "You girls are so..."

The truth was, there were very few comments that rightly applied to both of us; I came to believe that if one of us did something, it was automatically attributed to us collectively and this kind of comment followed.  My sister, though, had her own way of dealing with it:  every time my mother started a sentence that way, my sister burst into a rendition of  Bob Seger's "Feel Like a Number". It never did a thing to change the way my mother lumped us together, but we all got a good laugh out of it.

These are my daughters:

No, I didn't give birth to the older one. Do you really want to quibble?  They're six years apart. They look and sound quite a bit alike, but they couldn't be more different unless they'd been raised in different countries.  I try to be very conscious of those differences--I talk to them differently, teach them differently, ask different things of them, etc.

I have never, ever, ever said, "you girls" or "the two of you" about them in my entire life.  I'm pretty sure that neither of them has ever "felt like a number"--at least, not because of anything I've said or done.

And yet.

For the past month, my younger daughter (who lives with me) has been visiting her father in Indiana.  That means she spends a lot of time with her sister, who lives just a few miles away.  And, often, they call me together.

And...

um...

a lot of times when I'm talking to them on speaker, I can't tell who's who. 

That kind of came as a surprise to me, but what came as a greater surprise was that most of the time I don't care.  When they're talking to me together, they're usually doing something together; there's a common theme.  They're telling me a funny story about one of the grandkids or laughing because they're dancing in Wal-Mart and wanted to share that with me in the moment or any of a hundred different things they share. And I find that it doesn't matter in the least who told which part of the story or which one of them is holding the mud-covered child and which one is wiping him down.  I just address them as "hon" or "sweetie" and let the story unfold just as it would have a decade ago, when I was hearing those mingled voices and bursts of laughter from the next room as they sang along with Britney Spears or worked on each other's hair in the next room.


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