I heard his tiny footsteps stealthily pad their way through the bedroom door, but I purposely didn’t look up. I knew what was coming, and I just relaxed and let it happen. A few slow tiptoed steps later and he suddenly lunged around the edge of the bed holding a tape measure out in front of himself like a sword.
“Boo!” he yelled.
“Ahh!” I recoiled in mock surprise, but as I rolled over onto my back I caught his tiny body on the ends of my feet and held him up in the air for a few seconds while I tickled him.
He rocked from side to side and laughed until he started to drool and I quickly set him back down in front of me and wiped my forehead with my sleeve.
He stared at me until his giggling trailed off and then announced seriously, “Me be three!” He held up two pudgy fingers, looked at them, and quickly held up one more.
“That’s right. Tomorrow is your birthday and you are going to be three years old. You were born just three years ago. Do you remember?”
He considered this for a moment and then shook his head. “No.”
“Do you know WHERE you were born?”
He glanced around the room. “Here!” He waved his hand in the air like he was swinging a lasso.
“Close!” I said. And then I lifted him up onto the bed and positioned him in the middle. “Right…” I move him a little bit to the left. “Here!”
He bounced a few times.
“And where was I born?”
I turned and realized that Lydia had snuck into the room behind me. No doubt she had been attracted by the explosions of laughter and had come in search of tickles of her own.
I stepped over to her and picked her up by her shoulders. “Let’s see… the room was arranged differently then… But you were born riiiiiight… HERE!” I sat her on the corner of the bed. “Only more like this,” I picked her back up and spun her halfway around in a circle. I stepped back. “Yep. There you guys are.”
They looked at each other and then down at the bed and then glanced around the room.
“Where was Clara born?” Lydia asked.
“Oh, way over there.” I motioned vaguely in the direction of Anchorage.
“In the bathroom?!”
“No… No, much further away. Only you and Gideon were born here. You two are special that way.”
Gideon was still playing with the tape measure in his hand and started pushing the ruler out towards his sister.
“Huh,” I said, leaning over the bed and watching as the little man extending the thin bridge between himself and his sister, inch by inch. Finally, it tapped against her elbow and I read off the number. “24 inches,” I looked at the two of them. “That’s only two feet! Wow. Not many siblings can say they were born only two feet apart.”
Gideon suddenly let the tape measure retract into itself and pounced on his sister. She pretended to scream and the two of them tumbled to the floor. Lydia rose to her feet and twirled. “Come on Gideon, I’ll show you something.” She took his hand the two of them disappeared out the door.
I was left standing next to the bed, watching them leave. I looked back at the two tiny imprints in the comforter that they had left behind. Two small divots, exactly two feet apart Two tiny nests, now empty. Now, these children were a pair of thin lines with nearly identical starting points, squiggling out into the world, looping around each other and banging into one another, overlapping and mixing one color into the other. Pink running into Orange. I pictured their paths tying each other up into knots and orbiting one another like moons. What adventures they would have. But I knew that one day the two lines would eventually diverge, one would stop for a moment, twirl in a circle, and then go off in a new direction and the other would stay behind, frozen, face pressed up against a window. Then, I considered how often these two paths will cross each other again over the years. And I smiled to myself imagining how they will join hands across a table and measure the distance in their minds and think about just how close two feet really is.