These days we have lots of family visitors coming down from Minnesota to meet the boys. I decided a long time ago that mothering twins with a four and two year old is much easier (for me) when I'm surrounded by people that I love. As Evy says "they fill our buckets!" and break up the monotony of eating, sleeping, and tummy timing 24/7.
Two weeks ago we welcomed my Grandparents, Gordon and Gladys, and my uncle Greg. Sometimes it feels like we live in an infirmary with all the germs passing through, but by some miracle, their visit was sandwiched between two big waves of infection.
I really can't express how much I love having a space where people can stay together. A lot of times I'm stuck feeding in the babies' room, but it makes me so happy knowing that people are hanging out downstairs. I even stayed up later than my usual 8:30 bedtime to play card games and hear my grandma's smack talk. "Now that was a clown move. Why'd you go and do that?!"
All three of them, the grandparents and Greg, got lots of baby holding in. I had no idea my grandma was such a baby whisperer. She got the first giggles out of both Carter and Beckett but we only caught Carter's on camera (see video below).
Every time this side gets together, we don't have to say it, but we all feel a piece missing from our family puzzle. My aunt Cheryl lost her battle with cancer in 2012. Today is her birthday. She would have been 53 years old.
Cheryl was the glue that brought us together. If there was ever a family event to celebrate, you can bet Cheryl would be organizing things and making some sort of decadent-chocolate-filled-with-candy-bars-crumbled-on-top dessert. We still get together and have fun, but It just hasn't been the same without her throughout these years since she's been gone.
Ugh, and here's where I start to bawl my eyes out.
Cheryl had twin boys that were 13 years old when she passed away. Before having mine, whenever I met someone with twins, it brought up a memory of my aunt. I never imagined I'd get to have the same experience as her one day, but then we got the news. Not only did I have twins, but they were boys. Just like Cheryl's.
The twins have been a gift in so many ways, but this particular way is extra special to me. A day doesn't go by when I don't think of her. I wonder how she handled something with her boys, Marshall and Tucker, and I wish I could call her up and ask her what to do. I wanted so badly to be able to vent to her during my pregnancy and eat a bucket of ice cream together.
Throughout the nine months, my mom, grandma, and other members of the family, would recall stories of Cheryl and her pregnancy symptoms.
Remember how huge Cheryl's ankles got?
Remember how you could stick your finger in her foot and the indentation would stay for minutes after?
Remember how she went to the hospital at 35 weeks because she couldn't take it anymore and she demanded that the doctors take them out?
And now that my twins are here, the conversations continue. I get to have sweet phone calls with my uncle Brent about what it was like for them in those early days.
"It's nuts, right?"
I'll always remember one dinner in particular when their boys were still babies and Cheryl wanted to have everyone over for a meal and games. We played a card game and my uber competitive aunt (when it came to card games) went crazy when things didn't go her way.
After dramatically accusing all of us of cheating, she was almost in tears and stormed out of the room.
I didn't get it at the time. I was in college and having kids was not anywhere on my radar. I had no idea what postpartum sleep deprivation was like or that it was even a thing. Now I think back to that moment and sympathize completely with her. She was raising twin boys in the daytime when my uncle had to be in the office and then she worked a night shift at Kohls to help make ends meet. WHAT???!
The thought of it makes me want to lock myself in the car with crumbled candy bar cake and cry.
Here is a picture of her at the Breast Cancer Mother's Day walk with her twins, Marshall and Tucker.
One of my favorite Cheryl stories that comes up these days is how she didn't want to favor one twin over the other. I struggle with this too. I'm always trying to hold them the same amount and give them an equal number of kisses. My mom said that Cheryl would even feel guilty if she said one boy's name first more than the other's. Marshall and Tucker. Tucker and Marshall.
That might sound silly but I totally get it.
And I so wish more than anything that I could call her up and laugh about it.
But at least I get to imagine her answer and think about how she'd encourage me. If I didn't have twins, Cheryl wouldn't be as prominent in my thoughts. To be honest, after this many years, it's sad to say but the memories of my aunt weren't feeling as fresh as they did soon after her death. The sound of her laugh and the feel of her super squeezy hugs were fading a bit.
Today, on her birthday, I say thank you to God for my aunt Cheryl and the sets of teenage and newborn boys that make her memory live on. Our shared experience makes her a constant companion in my days as a mother.
Praise the Lord for sweet surprises like these.
Here is a video of Cheryl's life that my uncle Brent made. They showed it at her funeral and it perfectly captures her personality. Always smiling, loving, and bringing life to the party.
Happy Birthday Auntie Cher Cher. Thank you for showing me the importance of bringing people together, even in the toughest of times. Love you always.