In The Beginning

Kids and Mum in Ireland 001.jpg "Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth." --Kurt Vonnegut.

Sometime shortly after my ninth birthday, my mother announced that my brother Tom and I would be getting another little brother or sister. A few months after that, she returned from a surprising ultrasound appointment and told us that whoops! change of plans!, we'd actually be getting a brother and a sister (she's always been a fan of buy-one-get-one-free.) In the wee small hours of September 12, 1989, I awoke to find her standing over me, huge in a pale pink maternity dress, the nervous silhouette of my father in the doorway with a suitcase in his hand. "It's time for me to go to the hospital and have these babies," said my mother. "You guys can go to school or you can stay home today---it's up to you." I was nine and a half years old, may I remind you, and it was the week we'd just started doing fractions. It wasn't exactly a difficult choice.

Around lunchtime, my dad called. I had a beautiful new brother and sister, teeny-tiny little things with scrunched-up red faces. Everyone was tired. Everyone was fine. Were we okay? We were okay. I spoke to my mother and asked her what they'd decided on names. My sister was Susanna Leni Rose---Susanna because my mother loved it, and Leni and Rose after some old German aunts---but my brother, well, his middle name would be Patrick, after my father, but they couldn't decide on his first name. Did I prefer Luke or Jack?

And this is how I came to name my brother. Without my parents' knowledge, I immediately set to work, writing up hand-made birth announcements for the lobby of our Hong Kong aparment building---this was the sort of apartment building where everyone was up in everyone else's business and a handwritten birth announcement in the lobby was akin to a printed one in the newspaper---heralding the arrival of Susanna Leni Rose and Luke Patrick, which, in my nine year old's head was a much better name than Jack. By the time I told my mother what I'd done, it was too late; the calls and cards had started to pour in. "Congratulations on Susanna and Luke!" they said. And so it was official. Whoops.

My brother and sister were gorgeous. They were chubby and blonde and beautiful, the Shiloh Jolie-Pitts of their generation; old Chinese women stopped their stroller in the street and cooed at them. My parents, had they been the type, could have made a fortune pimping them out on TV commercials. (Or do we all just like to think that?) When I went away to school in England, aged 11, my mother sent their pictures in the mail, cassette tape recordings of their burblings and babblings. (E-mail? E-mail was still in the FUTURE.) Oh, I have a hundred stories I could tell you about how sweet and lovely they were, but the Internet is full of babies---babies who are still babies, no less---and me rehashing a few more tales of infant cuteness would be like that time you ate a whole bag of peanut M&Ms and then decided you could probably maybe squeeze in a Caramello as well, except, oops, you couldn't, and you spent the rest of the night feeling bloated and sick.

Because Tom was six when they were born, and I was nine, and because six and nine were obviously so grown up, we all just took to calling Luke and Susie the babies. They were The Babies when they were babies and they were The Babies when they were two or three, and they were The Babies when they were four and six and eight and sixteen, and one day they just said---in unison, I believe, because twins do things like that---"WE'RE NOT BABIES!" And that became a war cry in our house between the years of 1992 and 2007, really, the frustrated weep of WE'RE! NOT! BABIES!, whenever someone else in the family said have you packed the sippy cups for the babies? or have the babies had their bath? or, you know, can someone go and pick the babies up from the Junior Prom? Today these babies turn eighteen. They're tall and they're funny and they're applying for colleges and they go to parties, and man, I really just wish someone would have warned me that this was coming. People just turn from little nerds in cords and wire-rimmed glasses to six-foot tall rugby players with girlfriends, from pint-sized sidekicks you'd boss around to actual adults whose opinions you value and honestly, it happens overnight. It's like you wake up, and, whoops, you're suddenly friends with your siblings and hey, look, turns out they have actually have something interesting to say about Barrack Obama, and whoa, just where exactly did that little blonde monkey go, the one who thought shouting "Poop! Bottom! Wee-Wee!" every five minutes was the most hilarious thing in the world? I mean, did someone just fast-forward your life or something? Is that legal? Shouldn't you have got some sort of note in the mail?

Recently, I've been thinking a lot about babies, and how they're just---and I'm sorry for not putting this more eloquently----always there. Isn't that weird? I find that sort of weird. I can't get my mind around the fact that they don't go away, that they turn from being babies into being kids and then being teenagers and then being adults, and they're not really babies at all for very long. Except if they're your babies, I guess, and then they are.

At the risk of sounding sappy and silly and DAD, I AM WARNING YOU THAT THIS IS COMING UP, SO YOU SHOULD CLOSE YOUR OFFICE DOOR AND TAKE A MOMENT, I couldn't be any prouder with the way Luke and Susie have turned out, of what they've become, of the hilarious, kind, clever, amazing people they've grown up to be. Did I have anything to do with this? Well, probably not, but I'll point them out to you in a crowded room anyway and beam with sickening, unadulterated pride when I do it. "I remember when they were born," I'll say to you. "I mean, honestly, can you believe my luck?"
So Happy 18th Birthday, babies. Welcome to Earth.
Lukie and Susie.jpg

PS: Oh, and a few words about being 18: it's not going to last forever. Don't regret anything. Don't wish it away. Stay out of trouble. Stay out of prison. Wear your seatbelt. Wear sunscreen. Wear those hotpants while you can (well, not you, Luke, that might be a little weird.) And now I'm going to ask the good people of the Internet to tell you one thing they wish they knew when they were 18, and so this way you'll be going into your eighteenth year with a bunch of knowlege the rest of us never had, you cheats. Hey, just consider it my birthday present to you. You're not going to be getting the real one in the mail for a few weeks anyway.
Internet, over to you.

91
Noelle
Sep 16, 2007

Great post Holly! This is my advice to The Babies:

Read philosophy. Carry The Pocket Dalai Lama when you travel and read it. Remember the cause and effect of actions and decisions in life. Live life to the fullest, always have a dream, call your parents, and never, ever betray your personal morals - you will find you will have less problems in life.

At 40, this is the advice I wish someone had given me.

Happy Birthday!

92
Stella
Sep 16, 2007

You are your best friend. Treat yourself as such.

My life is a gift and mine to use as I see fit. When faced with a difficult decision, I wish I'd known that I should do what is right for ME and not worry about what others think (and usually they're admiring my individuality anyway!).

Health or wealth? Hopefully you can have both, but I know know which is more important.

Lastly, I believe that tacos with cheese is the best hangover food.

93
Heather B.
Sep 17, 2007

Easy: Have fun! The ability to use the "I'm 18 and stupid" excuse goes by way to quickly. So use it as much as possible and enjoy it.

Oh and lastly, just because there is wine left in the bottle, doesn't mean you HAVE to drink it.

94
lizinsumner
Sep 17, 2007

My advice - from waaaay on the other side of 18??? Don't quit college just because your boyfriend (or girlfriend) dumps you - you may never get back, and someday, the engineers will be making so much more money than you do! Don't spend an entire decade, through your twenties, making your romantic relationships your top priority - and definately don't waste 9 years on one (commitment-phobic!!) guy - 3 years tops, no more! And lastly?? When someone older tells you that there are some choices that you can make in life that you will regret when you are older - belieive them!!! Then, make the right choice, not the wrong one. Happy Birthday!!!!!!!!!!!

95
katie
Sep 17, 2007

A very HAPPY belated birthday!

1) Slow down. The world will be here tomorrow, but you might not. Enjoy today.

2) Talk to your parents, even if/when they drive you crazy. Getting to know them as an adult can be pretty rad.

3) Keep something for yourself that ties you to your childhood, whether it's a favorite PEZ dispenser, a rosary, or really bad ceramic you made at camp; it can bring you smiles when you're on the road or far from those you love most.

4) Remember that even a sh*t sandwich has bread.

96
Bank North
Sep 18, 2007

Bank North...

Bank North...

97
metalia
Sep 19, 2007

Beautiful post, Holly; happy birthday to the twins! :)