For the past four years Kate has toddled around behind, while towering over, Mary. Generally out in front, Mary answers for her sister frequently, often offering her name "this is my sister Kate", and takes the lead in almost every social situation.
Yesterday a great shift in the world as we know it happened, Kate found herself alone, for the first time, at the playground and she made a new friend. Mary went down early, a full crash onto the pavement resulting in a huge and bloody scrape to the elbow. She falls down frequently and bounces back quickly, unless there is blood, and then she is out. With Mary on the sidelines, Kate was free to roam the playground alone, but not for long. "Want to play?" from a six year old girl of equal height. Kate looked at me, looked at her sister and tentatively set off, following this girl from slide to swing to dirt. Mary scooted a bit closer to me, watching her sister wander without her. "This is making me a little sad, Kate is playing without me", but she remained on the bench, the pain in her elbow easier to identify than the pain in her heart.
From the dirt I overheard Kate, "that is my sister, she fell down, she has a big booboo on her elbow", the new friend looked over, and went back to her dirt moving. Kate stepped away, returning to our bench where she told Mary "if you feel better I could introduce you to my new friend" and then she was gone. Mary curled up and I explained that while she and Kate will always be friends, best friends I suspect, things will change. Certainly I blathered on for far too long, choking up myself, but not really able to tell her that the bubble of twindom that they have lived in for the past four years is soon to be over.
This September, when they head off to kindergarten, there will be new friends, new rules and a whole new social order. For five years they have been developing a bond that I can never really understand, the idea that they have never known life without the other. They play together, they argue, they share clothes, meals, affection, toys, books, friends, bath time, story time, and the attention of two parents who love them both very much. But they have never really separated when the outside world comes in, they always have had each other. And they always will, but for five days a week the hierarchy will change, and for the first time they will be navigating alone, without the hand of the sister who has always been just a arm's length away.