On July 16th, 1996, Doris and Craig Jensen became parents. First at 7:35 P.M and again three minutes later; I’d like to say I was the twin chosen to be delivered first but unfortunately my presence didn’t grace the world until 7:38. Being a month premature, we weren’t much to look at. We both barely weighed 4 pounds and had traces of jaundice. My upper body was underdeveloped, leaving me with saggy skin under my arms that gave off the appearance of wings (which led to my childhood nickname, “Birdy”). Our weird little bodies weren’t the only issues though; at some point a nurse had confused my sisters hospital bracelet with another newborns. Except the other kid was a black baby boy.
I think my mothers mission in life was to counteract our messy birth with an OCD organized birthday. Every year, about a month beforehand, she sat Devin and I down at the kitchen table with a pad of paper and pen at the ready. I would request a dog theme, Devin would want butterflies, and Mom would suggest a Hawaiian luau. Guess whose idea we used.
Everything was lumped together for those parties. We could only invite people that we were both friends with which resulted in maybe ten kids total; everyone else was either family or adults. Note to future parents: a kids birthday party is meant for your kids, not for every person you’ve ever met to get drunk then complain about the toddlers running around. Everything had to match, including my sister and I . Matching outfits, matching presents, matching cakes; all of it had to be “equal”. Presents were the absolute worst. Devin and I had completely different interests yet we were given identical gifts. Parties would’ve been more efficient if only one of us opened gifts, the other one already knew they had the same thing coming.
Eventually our names became irrelevant too. My mother just started to distinguish any differences by color. Devin was pink and I was purple. That was probably the only division we had throughout the entire day. People assumed that we actually liked those colors and soon they completely invaded our lives. Literally everything was pink or purple (room, clothes, toys, nail polish, all the way down to the toothbrushes). I don’t even like purple. I like black. Devin loves green. But none of that mattered since our birthday was not actually ‘ours’.
Walking into one of our parties one might have assumed that it was an extravagant shindig for one birthday. And after awhile that was exactly what it became. We went along with Mom’s themes, we accepted the purple/pink personas, we even blew out our candles in the afternoon to avoid making people wait the three extra minutes in-between birth times.
One memory stands out above the rest: Our seventh birthday party, Dev and I pretty much knew what to expect. Play with friends on the lawn, don’t bug the parents, open presents after cake then kick everyone to the curb. Standard stuff. We had a pony theme that year, actually magical unicorns to be precise. Half way through the party, everyone was ushered to the front of the house for a surprise. Devin and I stood in awe as a huge white glittery horned Unicorn parked itself in our driveway. Of course all the kids wanted a chance to ride on the Unicorn, after all this was clearly the last one in known existence, and they were able to take a trot down the street. All, except Devin and I. We had to ride together, because why would anyone possibly want to live out their personal childhood dream alone?!
The issue doesn’t lie in having to share the day, if that were the cases than everyone would be suffering from joint parties with strangers. It was the fact that we are two different people who are treated as one. No one wants to feel like they’re invisible.
Except maybe that Unicorn. I’m pretty sure one of my party mates knocked his horn off, turning him into just a common pony. That probably didn’t help in the self confidence department.
More to come,