Each Lent season, my uncle would select a person to inspire, cheer, or somehow improve their life. He called it his “Lenten Project”. Our family believes in adding to another’s life rather than taking something away—we don’t eat only fish on Fridays or give up chocolate. We place delight in someone else’s arms.
So in Advent, when our church created the “Angel Tree”, I jumped on the chance to have an “Advent Project”. You see, an Angel Tree is a Christmas tree placed in the back of the sanctuary laden with paper angel ornaments. Each ornament represents a person—in this year’s case, they were ten mothers and their children from our local women’s domestic violence shelter. Church members selected an angel, bought something on the wish list written on the ornament, wrapped the gift, and returned it in time for the moms to be able to give something to their kids for Christmas. These women had left their homes, perhaps in the middle of the night, sometimes with only the clothes they had on at the time, scared, hoping for a fresh start in the form of this organization that provides safe houses, legal help, and material goods.
Last year I had selected two moms—one because she had asked for simple household items to start her new life, not anything indulgent for herself: silverware, napkins, pots and pans. The second one was an older mother in Mexico living in a very poor area of the city; members were headed to a mission trip in her area later that year.
This year, as I looked through the angels, I saw many kids that were asking for toys, copyrighted cartoon character-based items, and gift cards. Not my style of shopping. Then a little red tag caught my eye. It was for a five-year old girl needing clothes and a winter coat—and beside her age was the word “twin”. My eyes sparkled! That meant there was another tag on the tree—I had to find the other tag with her twin sister on it!!!
Here’s the letter I didn’t send with the two sets of wrapped gifts that were placed under the tree for the twin five-year old angels this year:
Dear Mom of twin angels,
Being able to provide gifts for your twin girls means so much to me not because twins are cute or because I got to go shopping or because I like to brag about being able to donate. Being able to give to your twins this Christmas was meaningful because I myself am a twin, and it was like passing the joy and hope and peace on from one generation of someone who knows what it’s like to be half of something and yet still be a whole to another generation just starting out. A new generation of twins who will learn what it is like to have a part of yourself walking outside of your body, your brain in another’s head, your heart beating in another’s chest, to hate and love and know and need someone so much intensely more than even yourself.
Dear Mom of twin angels—please know that while changing two diapers and feeding two babies and potty training two toddlers and chasing two kindergarteners may be exhausting (just wait until you have twin teenagers!), and there may be times you don’t understand the dynamics between the two of them—what you are nurturing is something special, and something that you don’t come across just every day. An individual once asked me what it was like being a twin—and I asked them what it was like NOT being a twin! I couldn’t imagine being on my own as a child—you mean some people don’t share a birthday party? Egads! I can’t imagine not knowing my twin—she has been a part of me since before I was even aware of the world as I know it.
Also know, Mom, that although they are twins and the same age and both girls, they are also each their own person. There will be times they don’t want to be attached to each other. My mom and I went shopping together, and carefully selected outfits that complimented each other so each girl would have comparable styles and one wouldn’t feel left out from the other, but were different enough they didn’t look like mirror copies of one entity. The coats were selected in the same way—similar design, weight, and style, but just different enough that the girls remember that they are each their own person. One is not the regurgitated copy of the other. There will be a day they go their own way—and whatever way they choose, you will have to let them go. They will each have their own path, and they will be different colors and weights and lengths and journeys.
So, Mom, your girls aren’t angels because they are perfect or because they performed well or are an anomaly or were especially cute in a pageant. They are angels because they brought me joy. Wrapping and tying the twin gifts was one of the brightest parts of my Christmas season.
Thank you for allowing me to feel this gratitude, to spread my cheer, to share my blessing with you.
Julie Soaring Eagle Paschold
January 8, 2020