“How old are the twins going to be?” I asked.
“I’m not sure. Don’t you know?” came the response from my other half.
“You’re the one who is the actual blood relation,” I countered. “But I think 12.”
“Don’t we always think they’re 12?”
True, we do always think our niece and nephew are 12. For a long time when they were small I always guessed 3. Then time passed and wobbly toddler legs lengthened and words turned into sentences and hugs turned into tweenish attitude and birthday demands for shoes equipped with wheels became pleas for iPods. Twelve years old became the new default educated guess.
If nothing else, at least with the twins, remembering birthdays and ages are a two-for-one deal. That’s what happens when parents of two boys decided to try one last time for a little girl. They get their bouncing bundle of pink along with, you guessed it, another batch of blue for good measure.
And — small blessing in a disorganized life — the debate over their age was happening a week or so before their actual birthday. That was a step in the right direction if only predicated on the birthday of their much older cousin whose own day might only be remembered because it falls on Valentine’s Day. Families and friends have a way of each having birthdays and anniversaries all grouped together in one- or two-month clumps throughout the year. August is a desert for family celebrations. November is pretty dry, too, and the early spring month about the same. But December feels like an entire month of cake eating and present buying and that doesn’t even count Christmas. February and the beginning of March are the same. Singing and candle-blowing and scheduling that rivals any military operation. The twins’ birthday fall within this current batch of aging madness.
I guess we could have tried to guess their upcoming age based on their older brothers’ birthdays but those two have also become a shot in the dark — obviously a sign that Father Time hasn’t hit pause for the mental acuity and memory of the family’s adults. Besides, just like the twins, their siblings are also in those awkward ages that aren’t quite hinged on a memorable milestone. One is 14-15? no, not quite yet because there’s been no talk of driver’s permits — and the other somewhere past 21. I remember the finally-turning-an-official-adult birthday. But now with his job and his facial hair and the occasional legally allowed drink at family gatherings, just how far past that mark is a blur. Twenty-two, 23? Man, wasn’t I just that age myself?
It was just yesterday, too, that he was asking me to proofread his science reports and boggling everybody’s mind at summer barbecues with the random trivia only a bookwormy middle-schooler seems to have tucked back in the corners of the brain. It certainly feels that way and I have the nagging suspicion it was but, a short while ago, I was wrapping up gifts for the twins’ last birthday, stuffing spare change in my pockets in anticipation of video game pleas and hauling it all over to the pizza parlor party.
The night of the twins’ actual birthday, the phone rang.
Did you remember to call them today? their grandmother asked us. Thank goodness for those family matriarchs who keep a planner in their minds and the other members in line.
Ugh, no. We’ll do it now, we said.
Hey, before you hang up, double-check how old they really are, I asked.
The question was posed along with the weak explanation — We are terrible. We didn’t remember to call. Heck, we can never even remember how old they’re going to be.
With the phone hung up, it was the moment of truth. So, how old are they now?
A laugh and a slight head shake.
What do you know? This year they’re actually 12.
Michelle Durand’s column “Off the Beat” runs every Tuesday and Thursday. She can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone (650) 344-5200 ext. 102. What do you think of this column? Send a letter to the editor: email@example.com.