Funny how people with the same parents can look totally alike. I mean, it's obvious when you think about it, but if I had a pound for every time people said how alike Maggie and Ethan were....Here are my identical children:
Then hormones kicked in and for six years my grandparents refused to have us to stay at the same time because we fought so much. We would scream, slam doors, hit, punch and kick, get into arguments for the sake of it and generally make my parents wish they could give us both up for adoption.
The turning point came when I was seventeen and he was fourteen. We went on holiday that Christmas to Jamaica, staying a beautiful house with a few of my parents' friends. Somehow we started drinking and smoking together sneakily behind the grown ups' backs; I don't think we ever got particularly twatted, but the rebel aspect of it slowly started to reforge our bond.
My gap year was a bit of a fraught time for all concerned but by the time I packed up my bags ready for an independant life at university, we were not just friends again, but allies, confidantes, conspirators, siblings. A weird role reversal had taken place wherein although I was technically the eldest, he was the one who tended to look out for and look after me.
This week both Maggie and I were parted from our brothers in ways completely new for us. Since she started actually paying any attention to him, Maggie suddenly had her first full day without Ethan. I'm not sure she particularly noticed but she did save her biggest "take my face over" smile for when we picked him from nursery.
And my brother flew to Afghanistan for his first tour with the Army. We are literally on exactly the opposite sides of the world from each other. I have never been so physically far from Edward and it feels like a limb has gone with him, there is a massive hole in my heart pumping with worry and love. Any political or moral views I have about war, particularly this, the war of my generation, are completely irrelevant now my brother is fighting in it. I don't want to have a debate about whether it is right or wrong, whether or not Tony Blair was a lapdog of Bush's; all I know is my brother is out there somewhere in the eternal desert doing what he believes is right, doing a job I would never, ever have the courage or temerity to do, making a difference in his own way.
We always joke that we only had a second baby so Ethan would have someone to entertain him so we could sit back and drink gin. But I hope in Maggie we've given him more than that - someone who's soul, life, history, memories are so entwined in his own that they don't just look the same on the outside, they breathe the same air. Even on opposite sides of the world.