Happy Birthday to My Irish Twin

I named my blog Very VERY Busy Mom because I try to get more done than humanly possibly, and yet there’s one person who makes me look like a slacker – my sister Tammie.

Today is Tammie’s 49th birthday. I am also 49. We will both be 49 years until September 13 when I cross over to the mega-milestone of 50.

Just like the previous 49 years of our lives, we are the same age for exactly one month. We are called “Irish twins” – siblings born within 12 months of each other. And like some real twins, we have our own language that no one else understands. Actually it’s just English, but we since we constantly finish each other’s sentences, it may seem like some other rude language that focused on interrupting. To us, it’s a closeness that can beat any team in a game of Taboo.

We were too close in age for Tammie to wear my hand-me-downs. Instead, my mom dressed us like twins in identical outfits. Mine was blue and Tammie’s was always red, as if people needed help telling us apart. We didn’t. I was a blue-eyed blonde. Tammie was a brunette with brown eyes. She always had a golden tan, while I suffered through an endless cycle of burn-blister-peel.

In elementary school I was the butt-kissing teacher’s pet. The next year, Tammie would get the same teacher. “Why can’t you be more like your sister?” they each would gripe. I was a tough act to follow and she didn’t even try to compete. I stressed out memorizing multiplication tables and studying for spelling tests. Tammie was perfectly happy with her B’s and C’s.

I was bossy and overly sensitive, while Tammie could care less what people thought of her. She wasn’t a jerk or anything – she just didn’t spend the time focusing on herself. This quality made her fun to be with, while I ran around with a stick up my butt.

Throughout high school, Tammie and I shared a bedroom, which was actually a small converted den with a coat closet. We also co-slept each night in the same double bed. The setting was a little too close for comfort and we did not get along. At all. Tammie thought I was hogging too much of our small closet (I was) so one morning on trash day she threw out all my platform shoes. I hated her at the time, but looking back, I can’t blame her. Who did I think I was? Imelda Marcos?

In 1983 we both got married. It wasn’t a Brady Brides double wedding, but we were each other’s bridesmaids. My fruitless marriage lasted a year and a week. Tammie made it to seven years, producing a new baby every other year.

Tammie & me camping at the beach last June.

Our adult lives have continued to weave back and forth through lack and abundance, good luck and misfortune. I sped through college and grad school and landed a successful career in the entertainment industry, working so many hours I virtually lost an entire decade. Tammie struggled to single-handedly raise her three children with the help of welfare and food stamps. She cleaned houses, took in childcare, and frequently went without utilities or a car or the rent money.

I had money and no time. Tammie had time and no money. I mailed her kids gifts and stuffed animals, not realizing what my sister really could have used was a nice visit, and maybe a little help with the laundry.

I remarried. Tammie had a short-lived relationship that bore her another daughter in 1995. I gave birth to Emily the next year. And just like the two of us, our daughters – who are only one grade apart – could not be more different. Lauren works at Hollister and dreams of being a Kardashian. Emily shops at thrift stores and loses sleep over the water crisis in Mexico.

Cousins – Tammie’s daughter Lauren and my daughter Emily.

By the millennium, the entertainment industry starting reigning in my long hours and Tammie began working double shifts job as a psychiatric technician for the criminally insane. I got my time back just as Tammie was losing hers.

We each gained new husbands within a year, and we describe them both as “low maintenance.” My son was born ten months after Tammie’s granddaughter, and Chloe’s now the bossy one and it’s Jake who could care less.

My son Jake & Tammie’s granddaughter Chloe.

We both returned to school recently. Tammie earned a degree in Education and I got mine in Library Science. We share stories with each other about juggling work, school, children, housework, volunteering, gardening and husbands who just shake their heads when they hear us say “yes” to yet another thing.

Now that we’re both pushing 50, it’s kind of fun being just 11 months apart to the day. Tammie can tease me that I’ll always be older, and I can remind her that she’s not far behind. We talk on the phone every other day or more.

Today, my Irish twin lives 70 miles away from me so we only get together about a dozen times each year. And although I don’t want to go back to sharing a double bed and a coat closet, I fantasize that one day we’ll roommates in a nursing home, sharing the age of 95 for a single month, and beating the other old ladies in a game of Taboo.


Filed under Family, Humor

16 responses to “Happy Birthday to My Irish Twin

  1. This is amazing! Happy Birthday Tammie! What a great tribute to your sister. I am so glad you guys have such a good relationship. My girls are 2 years apart, and I often wonder how close they will be in adulthood. But I digress….nice post!

    • Thanks, and I hope your girls are the best of friends when they’re grown – maybe even sooner. Everyone I know who has kids two years apart has a really problem with sibling rivalry.

      • My brother and I were 2.5 years apart and we fought a lot, but at the same time we were very close and able to tell each other everything. Even ask advice, hahaha. I hope that my girls form tight bonds even if they fight as siblings do. *crosses fingers*

  2. Anonymous

    Great reflection of your relationship. My sister and I are 21 months apart and can not image beyond more different all the time. Cathy, I adore your insights and wisdom. Keep writing…..

  3. Tammie

    Great blog! I laughed as I read it!! I vow that this year I will start saying no more and Jerry only shook his head and said “Ya right”. Sorry again for throwing away your shoes….

  4. javaj240

    I, too, am an “Irish twin”! It has it’s ups and downs, LOL!

  5. So jealous! I have one sister and she has become a toxic force that had to be left out of my life. I so envy my friends who have sisters that they can share their lives with. After all – nobody ‘gets’ the jokes about your past like someone who actually lived through it with you!

  6. Throwing away Cathy’s shoes intrests me. I could use a little more closet space. Nice blog about Tamie.

    • Good thing I only wear one pair of shoes these days. I’m going to have to write a blog about them. Did you ever stop to think that YOU may be the one hogging up the closet? Really – how many wives out there actually allow their husbands to have half the closet?

  7. As the mother of these two Irish twins I want to thank Cathy for writing such an open, informative, loving article about her relationship with Tammie. I am enormously proud of both of them and tickled pink that they are so close. When they were growing up they would each complain to me about the other. I always told them to be patient, that once they grew up they would be each others best friend. I am so happy that I turned out right. I only wish that my 3rd daughter, Teri had an Irish twin of her own. As the mother of 4, grandmother of 14 and great grandmother of six I often get confused about who’s birthday is when. This morning when Tammie called I said, “I was planning on calling you tomorrow to wish you Happy Birthday.”Duh!! It’s a good thing I didn’t have that attitude 49 years ago. Back up the birth canal Tammie. You’re not due till tomorrow. Actually, her due date was the 12th and it turned out she was almost a month early. Doctors! What do they know? I had to leave her in the hospital in an incubator and cried all the way home. No one wants to go the hospital expecting the birth of their child only to go home without one. Happy Birthday Tammie. I love you! Mom

    • Tammie and I both adore Teri and Michael (our siblings) but I only wrote about Tammie since it was her birthday. On Teri & Michael’s birthdays I’ll come up with something sappy or embarrassing for them as well.

  8. Anonymous

    Having 9 siblings myself, so I can relate to so much of what you said. Tossing out your sisters stuff, rivalry, sharing beds, I remember that. The shocker for me in this post is the first picture. You look just like Mary did when I first met her. It is truly a spitting image.

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