Written by Panorama resident, Mary Jo Shaw. April 2018
“Look at the twins! You look so cute. How old are you?”
We chimed in unison, “We’re twelve years old.” Or whatever age we were at the time.
My sister and I loved to hear those questions. We were the same height and size. Year after year, we dressed exactly alike from the bow or hair clip, to the dress and jewelry, down to our shoes and socks. We gave each other the same birthday present at our shared birthday party, which Mom let us have every other year.
Unfortunately, we don’t get recognized anymore for being twins or get to answer questions like how old we are. Maybe it’s because we don’t look alike anymore, or we’re too old to be asked our age. But if we’re together, we still go out and dress alike.
When we were married and both lived in Las Vegas, we decided to have lunch at the Texas Steak House to celebrate our 70th birthday. We’d grown up in San Antonio, Texas, and it would be our treat to each other.
RRRING. RRRING. I ran to the phone in my undies, jeans over my arm and various fashions spread out on my bed.
“Wear your white pants and your nice, black T-top,” my sister laughed. “I’m wearing mine!”
“Oh, of course! Why not? Sounds fun. Wear your long, red scarf like mine.” I dashed into the closet.
“I’ll pick you up in fifteen minutes.” She slammed her phone down.
Only fifteen minutes? I scurried around, but lost precious time during her next three calls. After a disheveled closet and bedroom, we matched black earrings, shoes, and shoulder-strap purses. I held tight to my seat belt in her shiny red Jaguar racing down Sahara Avenue. She accelerated more to beat the stale-green light at Decatur.
We were grinning Cheshire cats strolling into the steak house. She was much shorter than I. My hair was turning gray; hers was thin and colored dark brown.
The hostess swiped a look at our matching outfits, raised her eyebrows, and hinted a side smile, “Welcome, ladies.”
I relieved her curiosity, “Oh, we’re dressed alike because we’re both seventy years old today.”
Relaxed, she alerted the waitresses. “We have special twins today celebrating seventy years young.” She royally escorted us to the highly polished, but western, hammered-to-look-old table-for-two. We were at the center of many crowded tables. Clients dressed in business attire to cut-off western shorts, bandanas and straw hats.
Booths around the walls were raised, looking down onto our table. We waded through empty peanut shells, strewn across the wooden floor. It was allowed in those days. Customers tossed them after nibbling the contents.
“Happy birthday, ladies!” Waitress spoke with enthusiastic volume. “It must be fun to be a twin. Thanks for celebrating with us.” We delighted in the attention of smiles and nods over menus, huge deep-fried blooming onions, and platters overflowing with Texas-sized steaks.
AAAHH! The aroma from peppered, mesquite-grilled steak snuggled close to steaming, baked yams dripping with butter and brown sugar, and heavy hunks of homemade cornbread: carriage back to our Texas home. All was washed down with cold ice tea for her and Lone Star Beer overflowing from a frozen mug for me.
We were queens-for-a-day. A parade of servers ushered one large dessert bowl of double-chocolate brownie fudge cake, topped with two extra-large helpings of vanilla ice cream slobbered in hot, chocolate syrup. This heap of luscious lust was crowned with fluffy whipped cream, crushed Texas pecans and two shiny red cherries. Two 12-inch spooned-straws shot out diagonally from the base of the fudge cake. The entire restaurant belted, “Happy Birthday, dear Twi–ns, Happy Birthday, to you-u-u.” Then a loud finale of cheers and clapping. We each blew at our never-go-out candle, while we entertained the crowd of spectators who eventually left us to ourselves.
My sister and I fidgeted with pursed lips and bug-eyes. She was diabetic! Worse, she was severely allergic to dairy: anaphylactic. If a spoon had stirred anything with milk, and it hadn’t been washed thoroughly with hot, soapy water, her tongue would swell within seconds. She had warned the waiters about her condition, but obviously in their energetic enthusiasm, they’d forgotten. We didn’t want to disappoint a generous heap of loving kitchen kindness.
We stared at its majesty ruling our table and swallowed hard. With two fingers, Sister gracefully removed a long spoon and began carving a portion of the heap. “Mary Jo, you eat fast on it, and I’ll just stir so it looks like I’ve dined on it too.”
We bent over the mound and energetically worked on our plan. I held my head, “OOOH! I’m getting brain freeze.”
Squirming and straining laughter, Sister admitted, “I have to go to the restroom. You eat lots while I’m gone, you hear?” She sprinted to the back, ahead of her shoulder-strap purse. Sister took her time in the ladies’ room to give me time to gulp ice cream, hot syrup, and brownie fudge cake while waiters were occupied elsewhere. My brain was a solid glacier.
Sister returned. “Mary Jo! You didn’t!! You finished the entire dessert?”
I loosened my belt. But why did I feel I had to finish it? Was it because I didn’t want to hurt the employees’ feelings, or was it because I couldn’t resist the indulgent luxury? Was it because I knew we couldn’t take it in a doggie bag? Maybe it was all of those. It was the last day we’d be the same age that year. Jerri was born before I was a year old, making us the same age for a week. We never said we were twins. When asked how old we were, we simply answered their question and enjoyed the consequences.