Before you were born, and right before we moved to Indiana, mommy and daddy sat my three-year-old butt down for chat one morning. I doubt my memory is accurate, but I remember gathering near the big TV on a brown rug, mommy in a floral nightgown. There was another baby growing inside of my mommy, and in a few months, I’d have someone new to play with.
I thought it was the most ridiculous thing I’d ever heard. There’s no way something like that could really happen, I told them. But mommy’s belly grew and I finally had to acknowledge that something was going on. Since I was pretty little myself, I convinced myself that you would be my twin (because I didn’t actually understand what twins were, obviously) and that we would be inseparable. We would have a bond that was unbreakable and we’d know each others thoughts and always be there for one another. I remember imagining all of the fun adventures we would have together and getting so excited for you to come out and play with me!
The day you were born was freezing cold and an ice storm. Mommy and daddy dropped me off at a friends house with all the things I’d need to spend the night, but you were born so quickly I didn’t need to spend the night. You came home soon afterwards, and there you were, my “twin” baby brother, in all your glory. Mommy and daddy said you peed on all the nurses when you came out.
Since then, we’ve had our ups and downs. We tortured each other growing up as most brothers and sisters do — me, getting you in trouble so you’d get your mouth washed out with soap; you, scratching my eyeball so I’d have to wear an eye patch; me, tattling on you when you smooched with your first “girlfriend”; you, always insisting on hanging out with me and my friends. We’ve had years where we’ve grown closer and years where we’ve been far apart in both distance and emotionally.
But, through everything, you’ve always been my little brother and I’ve always loved you and wanted to protect you in such a fierce way. When you broke your wrist, I remember thinking when you fell that you were crying for attention. As you ran towards my friends house and our mom, you let out this blood-curdling scream and I dropped everything I was doing and ran after you. I knew something was very wrong. I remember coming home after a long afternoon at the hospital with you and seeing your homework assignment on the table: “This is what my name looks like with my left hand.” And then your name was scrawled out in awkward, big letters across the page. I burst into tears, because you had just broken your left wrist and I was so sad that you wouldn’t be able to use it for so long, afraid you’d fall behind in learning. I wished so hard that it hadn’t happened to you, felt like if I had watched you better it wouldn’t have happened. I promised myself I’d never let you hurt like that again. I know I haven’t managed to follow through on that promise, but I still try my damnedest.
I love being a part of your life, watching you learn and grow. I loved helping you with stupid homework assignments, and when you’d come to visit me in college. I loved discovering how to make dumplings and scallion pancakes with you, fashioning together a weird makeshift steamer in my college apartment and then feasting on our delicacies. I loved coming to visit you during culinary camp and while you went to college. I loved screaming as loud as I could with mommy at your high school graduation, and sneaking in noisemakers for your college graduation. I loved meeting the love of your life. And I’ll love seeing you get married, open your first restaurant, buy your first house.
Life hasn’t been easy for you, and at times you’ve struggled with that, but you’ve always triumphed over all of it. I always knew you would. I always tell people that you’re my favorite person and it’s true. I admire you and your perseverance and your strength. I am so proud of what a smart,hardworking, passionate and truly kind person you’ve blossomed into — so proud, sometimes, that it makes me feel as if I’ll burst at the seams with all of it when I talk about you or mention to someone how you’re doing. You’ve grown into the most amazing person I know and I’m so lucky to be able to call you my “twin.”
Happy 23rd Birthday, Noni! I hope this year brings you so much joy.
All my love,