This is Noreen–continuing for Charlie. I think that my husband, Kevin, and I were the only Gang members who did not make it to the Turin Olympics. I'm supposed to explain why.
Quite a few episodes back Kevin told you that we were expecting our first child in February of 2005. At about the twelfth week of my pregnancy the ultrasound technician told me I was having twins. Not long after, I knew it would be twin boys, and not long after that the doctors were pretty sure the boys would be identical twins.
Kevin and I discussed the implications of identical twins at some length during the rest of my pregnancy. Parents of identical twins are divided about whether to raise them as a single entity or as two individuals. It begins with the names chosen, extends to how they're dressed, their haircuts, just about everything. And there isn't a clearly right or clearly wrong answer. Those who raise two separate individuals insist that the children have the right to their separate identities. Parents who raise them as twins insist that making them different denies their God-given attribute that makes them stand out in the world.
The only other twins we knew were the dancing Osborne boys, Gerry and Terry, who were in eighth grade and were very much involved with Natalie and Jocey Tavert, children of the Circle. So we invited the Osborne family to join us for dinner one evening, and asked how they'd resolved the issue. Having the twins present gave them a chance to make firsthand comments.
Abs and Clint Osborne were delightful people, and were willing to talk freely about their decisions regarding the boys. But they stressed that as soon as the boys were old enough to express their own opinions, what the boys wanted was what they got. Abs began, "Well, you know from the names we gave them that we decided to let them be twins. We dressed them alike as babies, but when they got to be about two they started to demand different clothes. I don't think they were asking to be different, they just had different ideas of what they liked to wear."
Gerry commented, "Sometimes we'd be alike and sometimes we'd be different. Then we realized that when we dressed alike, nobody could really tell us apart, and we went through a stage of liking to fool people. Now when we get up in the morning one of us will ask, 'Alike or different?' and we'll decide what to do for the day."
Clint said, "We enrolled them in dancing school together, and they both seemed to like it. But soon Terry got into clogging and Gerry liked tap. They 've both stuck with ballet, but I think it's mainly because the schools are so desperate for danseurs. By the way, that's the word that both boys insist we use for male ballet dancers. The dictionary says that it's an English word, but it's obviously very French. Now they're falling in love with sisters, and...."
Both Gerry and Terry started to interrupt, but Terry carried the day, "We aren't falling in love, Dad. We just like dancing with Jocey and Natalie."
"That isn't all you like doing with them. If you aren't falling in love, then you should probably stop all the hanky-panky over there in The Hideout."
I had to laugh. I told the boys, "Don't worry, your Dad isn't talking out of school. Toppy told us the story of the snowball fight a long time ago. You need to understand, that with the freedom you experience with those two girls comes a big group of parents, uncles, aunts, and friends who usually know what's going on. Kevin and I know the Circle very well. And the story of the snowball fight is a wonderful story."
Terry said, "Just how many people have heard that story by now?"
"Oh, about a hundred. Have Jocey and Natalie talked to you about the Gang?"
"Well, the story's made the rounds of the Gang, but stories like that never go outside of the Gang. I take it from your father's comments that the snowball fight was the beginning of something, not the ending."
The boys were silent. Abs said, "You boys are awfully silent. Are you embarrassed? If so, then maybe you shouldn't be doing in The Hideout what you obviously are doing in The Hideout."
With a twinkle in his eye and a little bit of a grin Clint put in, "Maybe we 've been a little innocent. Just what have you been doing in The Hideout?"
Both Gerry and Terry were turning red as beets, and their silence was deafening.
Kevin said, "Boys, you didn't grow up in the very open atmosphere that Jocey, Natalie, Noreen, I, and quite a few others grew up in. Neither did your parents. But, believe me, you don't need to be embarrassed around us. And clearly your parents aren't distressed or upset by whatever hanky-panky you are doing in The Hideout. Noreen and I grew up doing exactly the same hanky-panky in that house, and in that shower, and on that huge bed. You're just the next generation."
Terry said, "You've played in the shower at The Hideout?"
"Young man, Noreen and I lived in The Hideout for two years while we were in college. Nothing you're doing there now is new to that bedroom. But your predecessors were willing to talk about it. Perhaps I should say brag about it."
Abs said, "I'm not going to push the issue, but I'm just curious: After hearing Kevin's story, just how willing would you be to tell just what goes on at The Hideout?"
"Mom!" From both boys.
I said, "Boys, I think you're missing an opportunity here. You know that the end of the snowball story was a new openness with your parents. That's been great. But clearly there is still a lot unsaid in this family. Now's your chance to break down a barrier."
Gerry said, "The problem is, we haven't done much more than what was told in the snowball fight story. Hey, we're only in eighth grade. Our bodies are just becoming capable of more than what happened in that story. Come back and ask us these questions in a year or two."
Clint said, "I think I'll be afraid to. But thank you for that honest answer."
Kevin said, "The thing I like here is that fact that everyone just accepted Gerry's answer as an honest one."
Abs turned to Kevin and me, saying, "I think we've gotten off the subject. I'll sum up where we stand on raising twins very simply: We started them alike and let them decide for themselves as soon as they were able. We've encouraged them to be alike, at least some of the time, but we've never pushed."
Clint asked the boys, "Is that a fair statement boys? And is that the approach that you'd suggest to Kevin and Noreen?"
Gerry said, "Yes," and Terry nodded agreement.
I asked, "Do you like your rhyming names?"
"Oh, yes. It nearly always leads to, 'Are you twins?' and we kind of like answering that question. After all, being twins makes us a little special."
I replied, "I think your dancing makes you more special than being twins."
"Thank you. It's nice to hear. But we've been twins since birth and are only now getting recognized for our dancing."
"Any ideas for another pair of names? I don't think we want another Gerry and Terry in town."
We all thought a little and couldn't come up with any obvious pairs of names, but as we thought, and did a little web searching, we gradually came up with a short list, that if we didn't all like, at least nobody was violently opposed to any on the list:
We didn't try to settle it right then, as the final decision would be for Kevin and me and not a larger committee, but we were glad to go home with some good ideas.
I had always felt a little guilty not working (outside the home, as modern women say), especially when I had earned two master's degrees while Kevin was studying at M.I.T. However, I never was short of things to do, and I got real fulfillment with my volunteer tutoring at the middle school level. You have a real chance of helping kids who are starting to get behind if you intervene in middle school, rather than waiting till high school. I usually had about eight to ten kids that I worked with two or three times per week. Now, with the twins coming, I was very glad that I hadn't started a job which would 've seriously conflicted with raising the twins. On the other hand, while I thought I would cut the numbers back a little, I knew I could continue with my tutoring while I raised the two boys.
A couple of months after I got the news that I was going to have twins, Milt and Viv got the same news. They would be having identical twin girls, and had much the same decisions to make that we had. The four of us talked together, and we told of our conversation with the Osborne family. I'm pretty sure that Milt and Viv had a similar conversation with the Osborns as well. In any case, Milt and Viv came to the same conclusion that we did regarding names, and had no difficulty deciding on Marilyn and Carolyn. Since Marilyn is usually not shortened and Carolyn often is, the twins would have a chance to keep their rhyming names or not, as they choose (or at least as Carolyn/Carol chose).
We decided on the names Tyler and Taylor, and they arrived only three weeks early on January 25, 2005. They were just a year old when the Turin Olympics arrived, and we decided that the twins would get nothing out of a trip to Italy, and we wouldn't get much out of the opportunity to move our parenting responsibilities to Italy. So we stayed home, took care of the boys, and for the duration of the games had to limit our sex to each other, as the entire rest of the Gang was gone!
I should note that Milt and Viv were braver that we were, or more foolish, as they took Marilyn and Carolyn to the Turin Olympics. Milt did point our that the fact that the little girls weren't yet walking, and the boys were, made a considerable difference regarding the ease of caring for them. The twins don't remember a thing about the trip!
With the arrival of Marilyn and Carolyn the GrandCOGs now numbered thirteen, all ages six and under. They fell into two groups: the eight born 1999-2002 (January, 2002, at that) and the five born in 2004 and 2005–Frank Bruder (Bud and Jennie's son) and the four twins. Over the years these five have been a very close knit group, and Frank is the only person who can tell both sets of twins apart, even when they're trying to fool him.
Frank, Marilyn, and Carolyn all lived in The Playhouse, Sid Madison's house expanded under the guidance and leadership of his eldest son, Max. Kevin and I lived in a very nice little house in Grand Forks; it was almost out of the flood plain, but we knew that we'd get soaked in a century flood. So storage was in the attic, the basement was for games and toys that we could live without, and we were prepared to move most everything from the first floor to the second when we had to. The house had been built following Carl's advice on how to build a house to survive a flood and we were ready. However, thus far we hadn't been challenged by the Red River of the North. Taylor and Tyler fit into the house well. We had a room for each of them, but they insisted on sharing a single room. The other room became a sort of den where they entertained friends–when they weren't playing ping pong or something in the basement.
The three sets of twins liked getting together, and this included Gerry and Terry, even though they were fourteen years older. The older twins sort of became mentors for the four younger ones, and the younger ones became great cheerleaders for the older danseurs and their partners. Even after the dancers all left town to study and pursue their dancing careers in New York, they kept in touch with the younger twins and visited them every time they were in town.
The four dancers had marvelous success in New York. They all four joined the New York City Ballet at the invitation of Master Pascal. Pascal had seen them dance in Giselle and was delighted to hear that they were headed to New York with dancing on their minds. The boys weren't sure that they wanted to pursue ballet, when clogging and tap were their true loves. Pascal told them, "Look, you come dance with me. Keep your eyes open for opportunities in clogging and tap, and take them when they come along. I'll be fully supportive, and even help you find openings. But there aren't full time jobs available, and a home and salary at New York City Ballet will be great. Besides, the girls are here."
There was a lot of serious competition in the New York City Ballet company, and the four newcomers didn't rise to the top instantly as they had in Grand Forks and Moorhead. But they soon were given starring roles in a couple of the Ballet's productions, and quickly were making a name for themselves in the world of ballet, which in America was certainly centered in New York.
They were living in a nice Manhattan apartment which everyone realized they couldn't afford on the salary they received from the ballet company. Only Master Pascal actually had the nerve to ask them where the money came from, and they tried to explain the idea of The Gang and its support for its members. Pascal's reaction was, "That makes about as much sense as your President Tim's explanation of how you got so damn good at dancing out there in North Dakota. He just said, 'Love and support.' What the Hell does that mean?"
"We feel love and support here: from you, from each other, and from the whole company. We're young and new, and you've given us some great roles, and there doesn't seem to have been much jealousy."
"I had to read the riot act to a couple of our lead dancers. I said, 'Look, forget their ages. Be honest, can they dance as well as you?' People simply had to admit they you can dance as well as almost anybody in the company, even if you are still teenagers. So you deserve an equal crack at the good roles."
At about this time he approached Gerry and Terry with a startling proposition. "I 've head about your recital showstopper when you clogged and tapped to 'Dueling Banjos.' I think some New York producers would like to put on that show, expanded to about thirty or so dancers, half cloggers and half tap dancers. The finale would be you two doing 'Dueling Banjos.' I think it could run about six weeks. You'd make a splash."
Did they ever? With Pascal's enthusiastic support and endorsement backers for the show were easily found (an unknown investor from somewhere out west, by the name of Fred Milson, was a 15% subscriber). The 2,000 plus seat Koch Theater where the New York City Ballet performed was neither available nor on the scale that they could manage, but an Off-Broadway theater that was anticipating being dark for the summer was easily engaged. Dancers are always looking for work, and tap dancing wasn't winning popularity contests in 2011. They had no trouble recruiting sixteen really excellent tap dancers. Cloggers in New York were a little harder to find, but they did manage to assemble a really good group of sixteen. They had to offer a higher pay scale to get the cloggers, but they realized that they couldn't have two different pay scales in the troupe, so the tap dancers got an unexpected pay raise before their work even began! Everyone was happy.
They worked their buns off during April and May, and were ready with a complete production on opening night in early June. We had some debate about the Gang attending on opening night. The theater only held 375 persons, and a Gang of almost half that could easily have spoiled the show. What they needed was a lot of New Yorkers to see the show and tell their friends (and readers, all critics were invited, of course). So it was agreed that the Gang would host the after-theater party at a large private venue, but only Tim, Charlie, and Fred would attend opening night. Others would be invited to fill any unsold seats. Amazingly, there were none. The advance publicity had been well organized, and Gerry and Terry's reputations at the New York City Ballet virtually guaranteed the full house opening night.
The whole show was built around a theme of competition between the cloggers, led by Gerry, and the tappers, led by Terry. It wasn't all dancing; several of the cloggers were Irish, and they told stories in their native brogue, relating to clogging in the "old country." As the show was put together, they listened to the stories of the tap dancers, and quickly realized that the white and black tap dancers had very different stories to tell. Even though these dancers had all grown up after the segregation era, they'd found in casting that black tap dancers were thought of in a very different context than white ones. They were glad to be in a show that didn't have any racial expectations. They did tell some great stories, especially those who could tell of their parents' and grandparents' experiences in vaudeville and burlesque! They danced separately and together, with Gerry and Terry weaving in and out virtually all the time. In fact, one of the themes of many of the reviews of the show was, "Where did Gerry and Terry get all of their energy?" In fact, the show was programmed to show off their fantastic energy and to raise exactly that question!
The whole show was titled Dueling Banjos, and that piece was the finale. When it had been performed in North Dakota and Minnesota, just Gerry and Terry were onstage, however, now they were each backed by sixteen dancers–none of whom could tap or clog in the same league as the twins. Gerry, Terry, Master Pascal, and two other choreographers worked for most of the rehearsal time to get the whole thing perfect, highlighting the exceptional dancing skills of Gerry and Terry. They decided that they would trust the audience to demand an encore, and for the encore Gerry and Terry did the duet they'd done in their final performances back in the Midwest.
While the critics did point out that the company wasn't as good as the stars and that detracted a little, the overall conclusion was that if you liked to watch good dancing, this was the show to see. The Times critic went so far as to say that for anyone that likes a good show, even if they weren't a special fan of dancing, this was a show not to miss.
It ran for eighteen weeks, and the first unsold seat was in the seventeenth week! Of course, all the Gang wanted to see it two or three times, and that insured full houses for the first week or so of the run. It also made it, for those ten days, one of the hardest tickets to get in New York.
Very early in the show's run Master Pascal had come to the twins and their wives with a proposal. He wanted to mount a brand new Giselle at the New York City Ballet with the four of them as the leads. He was particularly eager to show off the ballet capabilities of the boys who now were considered major show dancers. The idea of crossing the line between classical ballet and modern show dancing (or folk dancing, if that is what you want to consider clogging and/or tap) was intriguing, and he felt it could lead to expanding the classical ballet audience, which had always been fairly limited. (Were it not for the loyalty of this limited audience, classical ballet would long since have atrophied in New York, and elsewhere.)
On the other hand, the twins were intrigued by an offer to produce their show on a national tour, immediately after it's New York closing. An arrangement was finally made for Giselle rehearsals to begin during the last six weeks of Dueling Banjos; Giselle would open the week after Banjos closed, and would run for a little over a week–a standard run at the New York City Ballet. A week later Dueling Banjos would take to the road, opening in Chicago in early November, running through the lucrative Christmas season. Then they would be off to the seldom visited (on tours like this) towns of Grand Forks, North Dakota, for a week, followed by Fargo, North Dakota, for another week. The producer was dubious about that many performances in, of all places, North Dakota, but the twins assured him of a good turnout, and besides, refused to do the show at all if those cities weren't included. They'd learned to play hardball from Tim!
The announcement that Gerry and Terry were bringing Dueling Banjos to town created quite a stir in the dancing studios that the boys had grown up in, as well as the entire towns. The producer was staggered to learn that all fourteen performances scheduled for the two cities had been sold out before the troupe even left Chicago. It didn't surprise Tim, who'd told everyone he knew that tickets would be scarce and to get them early.
Dance troupes aren't used to the idea of being greeted in a town with a parade through downtown, but Grand Forks was greeting two hometown boys who'd gone off to the big city and succeeded beyond everyone's wildest dreams (except for Tim and a few others), and by God they were going to be appropriately greeted. Small towns, even cynical college towns, know how to throw a parade: you don't need a million roses and expensive floats; you just need a bunch of fire engines, some cops on motorcycles, two high school bands, a college band, the mayor and the university president in Cadillac convertibles, and a moving stage on which the twins and their troupe could stomp and tap. Violá! A grand parade. The local dance studio decorated a car in which the director rode, and all the students walked behind it. Everyone had a ball, and it cost next to nothing. And as good as an old fashioned circus parade to advertise an event, except that this one was already sold out!
Gee, it was fun having the twins, and their wives, in town for two weeks (they stayed in Grand Forks, as guests in several different homes, and commuted to their performances in Fargo). It was old home week, and it was also time to ask the four of them whether they wanted to join the Gang. We understood that their artistic careers would probably preclude them from living in Grand Forks, probably for a long while, but that hadn't barred others. The question was whether they were willing to commit to total love and support within the group. Their answer was an unequivocal, "Yes," and it was time to plan the ceremony. Sid was given the task of planning and executing (on short notice) an appropriate painting for Gangland. The ceremony would take place in The Hideout, and as many as wanted, and could fit, would go with the four and Sid to Gangland for the unveiling.
It never occurred to Sid that anything other than naked dancers, stomping, tapping, and balleting (the dictionary says it isn't a word, but what other word would you insert in that slot?) across the canvas would do. Sid realized that if the dancers were going to perform for him, he needed a good, solid floor with no rug. His home studio simply wouldn't do the job. He thought of the local dance studio, but realized that he couldn't possibly get the privacy there that he'd need. So he called Tim and asked if Tim could get them into the Burtness Theater–where they'd be performing in the evening–the next morning, and insure their privacy for an hour or so. Tim replied, "Piece of cake."
Sid invited the four dancers to breakfast gave them some idea of what was going to happen, and took them to the Burtness, where Auggie, Lynn, and Cathy were waiting. He introduced Auggie (his son) and his wife, Lynn, and his own wife, Cathy. Sid told them, "A little audience for this'll be embarrassing, and that'll heighten the sexuality, and that'll make my painting glow."
Sid casually took off his clothes and told the four dancers to do the same. He was certainly right about Auggie, Lynn and Cathy creating an embarrassing situation, and the three of them just staring at the four dancers didn't do anything to lessen the tension, or the sexuality. They'd been told to bring their dancing shoes (pointe shoes, clogs, or tap dancing shoes) and were now told to put them on. Jocey commented that she'd never been naked in ballet slippers before, and certainly not in pointe shoes. Gerry commented, "If you think that feels strange, you should try these heavy clogs."
Sid let them chat a while and then said, "OK, you're going one at a time. Just get up on the stage and do some dance routines that you're familiar with. It doesn't matter which, but it does matter that you do an actual routine, not just casually dance around. Whose first?"
Natalie went first, performing a first act scene from Giselle. Sid asked her to do some other routine, as different from Giselle as she could muster. She said, "I'm learning a new role in the ballet, The Prince and the Pagodas. It's very different."
Terry asked, "I never heard of The Prince and the Pagodas, is New York City going to produce it?"
"Yes, but it's several months off. Only the leads have been selected and are beginning to learn their roles. It's a very different ballet, but still in the classical tradition. You'll like it."
"We'll let's see it."
It was different, and it gave Sid a chance to sketch widely different poses and actions. It was interesting to watch Sid sketch. He moved very fast, tossing off a new sheet of paper almost every half minute–or less. But he never tried to sketch her whole body. It would be a foot, or a knee, on just her mouth. He knew where this was all leading, and sketched boobs, butt, and midsection from many different angles. Sometimes it would be a whole body sketch, but then it wouldn't be much more than stick figures.
At the same time, Cathy and Auggie were taking piles of photos. When the whole thing was assembled, Sid would have all the material he needed to make a complete oil painting.
The other three dancers performed their own routines, and Sid, Cathy, and Auggie all did their sketches and photography. When the last, Terry, had finished Sid said, "Thank you for your time. And thank you for a very libidinous experience. If it weren't that, then nobody would be that enthusiastic about the result. That's why I always strip when I paint or sketch nudes. If you miss eroticism, what's the point of painting a nude? I know, a lot of artists make a big deal of their painting the natural human body, without the impediments of clothing. I think that's bullshit. Naked is sexy; why try to deny it?"
He continued, "And now, reluctantly, I'm going to put on my clothes and suggest that you might do the same. I'm glad to know that you're joining the Gang, and that this won't be my last opportunity to gaze at your very luscious bodies."
On the way back to Gerry and Terry's house where they were staying for a while with their parents, Gerry said, "It a good thing you two girls warned us somewhat about this Gang of yours. That was quite an experience; I'd hate to have been hit by that without some considerable warning."
Jocey said, "It was fun, though, wasn't it? I wonder what Master Pascal would think if I suggested that we do a nude ballet in the Koch theatre?"
Natalie commented, "I suppose that what he'd think of the idea would be quite different from what he'd say about it."
Jocey continued, "Let's just assume that he's a normal man with a normal libido, and a good producer who knows what he can get away with on a stage in the Lincoln Center."
Gerry said, "Amen."
Terry said, "I don't know about you all, but that experience has my hormones raging. We're rooming two by two at our house, and I'm not at all sure that our parents are ready for room sharing. What do you say we drop by The Hideout and see if the master bedroom is available for a while. I could sure use a shower."
All agreed. The master bedroom was available, and the shower was delightful. The two boys took turns shoving their dicks into all three of both girls' orifices until they'd both had a second orgasm. The girls didn't count. It didn't take that long. They had another shower, found sandwich food and ginger ale in the kitchen, ate a quick meal, and then headed home. After a short nap, they were back at the Burtness Theater, the boys dancing and the girls watching from the wings. Jocey and Natalie never got tired of watching Gerry and Terry stomp and tap!
After we had made the decision to invite Gerry and Terry to be part of the Gang, Tim asked me whether I thought we should think about inviting the twins' parents to join as well. We had, after all, done that for other parents. I thought about that and asked, "Who in the Gang knows them best, other than Jocey and Natalie?"
"I would guess somebody in the Circle, perhaps Toppy, or maybe the girls' parents."
"Let's talk to Toppy."
We did, and his response was very considered, and surprised us a little. "I don't think so. They are wonderful people, and have been incredibly tolerant of the goings on in The Hideout–and other places. At the same time they have consistently said that while they are tolerant and understanding, it isn't for them. Besides, by this stage in life they are well established in Grand Forks with their own set of friends. Most parents aren't interested in being part of the social set of their children, and I don't think they need to expand their social set to include you two, me, the Circle, or the rest of the Gang. If they were new in town, I might have a different answer."
So the ceremony in The Hideout proceeded for Gerry and Jocey, and Terry and Natalie. By this time full nudity was the rule, and Franklin managed to produce the biggest permanent marker that I have ever seen. Natalie, the first born got 132, Jocey the younger COG got 133; the boys were numbered in the order of their wives, Terry was 134, and Gerry was 135. After Franklin's numbering they were told to kiss everyone in the room, and I can assure you that they got gently fondled by nearly everyone as they did. It ended with a Coke toast and an invitation from Sid for those who knew the group well to join them at "You know where."
Sid told the dancers to put on their shoes and then furnished blankets for them to wrap themselves in, "Because it's cold out, and you won't need your clothes at 'You don't know where'." It is also not acceptable for naked adults to be wandering the streets of Grand Forks. However, the four were surrounded by enough of the Gang, including all of the Circle, that nobody was aware of their odd clothing. To The Carl, up the elevator, down the hall, instructions on how to open the door, into the room, blankets off, view the art work, and get ready for the unveiling. It was another Sid Madison masterpiece. Jocey was shown flying through the air and just about to be caught by Gerry, whose had clearly was going to grab her crotch in the course of the catch. And their was a marvelous gleam in his eye and she flew at him. Jerry was already lifting Natalie, and his hand on her chest was clearly fondling both of the dainty little breasts that hung by his hand. Same gleam in the eye. Jocey looked at it and exclaimed, "Sid, you never saw poses like this. But you got them exactly right, and believe me, those boys try that grab-ass business a lot. How did you paint this?"
Sid answered, "I had all the pictures I needed of you. It was easy to find good pictures of ballet poses, and I knew that the four of you would be executing them perfectly, just like my photos. You are looking at the result."
"It's wonderful. But such a shame that only the Gang can see it."
Sid said, "You aren't the first person to say that about a painting, and in this case I am going to make an exception."
Somebody said, "Sid, you can't release that picture to the public; they're naked."
"No, but I can show this one." He brought out a second picture, of exactly the same poses, but this time in standard ballet tights and costumes. It was stunning, and the gleams in their eyes were still there! Viewers could easily imagine the pleasure the boys would get with their subtle grab-ass games. And the girls as well.
The picture was shown in various galleries, and eventually sold at a New York auction for the most money a Sid Madison painting had ever sold for. We realized that the paintings in Gangland were worth millions altogether–if they could be sold.
Toppy had carefully gathered up their clothing at The Hideout and now produced it. They dressed, I think somewhat reluctantly, and we all headed our separate ways. I am told that the boys' performances that evening in Fargo were the best of the week!
This story started out telling of the two sets of twins born in early 2005: Kevin and my twin boys, Tyler and Taylor, and Viv and Milt's twin girls Marilyn and Carolyn. At the time Terry and Gerry were tapping and clogging in the Burtness Theater, those four kids were in first grade at Flynn Elementary School where all four of their parents had gone; it was on the west side of town and it was where you ended up if your parents had moved far enough to the edge of town to be out of serious flood danger!
Raising twins has certainly been an exciting adventure for Kevin and me, and for Milt and Viv. Both Viv and I had made a commitment that our full-time occupation would be care of the home, our children, and our husbands. Never in our lives have we ever been criticized for that decision by any member of the Gang. However, that isn't true for the rest of the world. We interacted frequently with other Flynn Elementary School parents, and were very likely to get a raised eyebrow and a, "You don't work?"
I liked to answer, "Honey, believe me raising twins is work," but that reply misses the point. The point is, quite simply, that I'm very happy in the life I 've chosen, as is Kevin, as are my children, and I don't need other busybodies suggesting otherwise. As you know, Kevin was quite reluctant to consider marriage–to me or anyone–because he wasn't sure that he could be an equal partner in marriage and maintain his commitment to his science. It was my decision that I would happily spend my life making it possible for him to be a committed scientist and be part of a loving family. It has worked, and I'm proud of my contribution to our family.
In Viv's case the decision was a little different. Viv and Milt married without any great concern about family or parental roles. But, believe me, the arrival of twins makes those decisions very important and quite immediate. Milt's response to Viv's pregnancy, intensified by the announcement that twins could be expected, was to say, "Honey, let's put all talk of a career for you on hold at least until our girls get into school all day. And I suspect that even then raising them is going to be a full-time job for somebody. And if I'm going to keep 'The Business' going, I'm afraid that the child-rearing responsibilities are going to fall on you. Are you comfortable with that?"
I will report that Viv had to think about that for a while. She hadn't really thought too much about where her life was heading, other than a total commitment that wherever it was heading, it was heading there with Milt. Twins forced an early decision. Her reply to Milt, not given for a couple of days, was that she thought she'd love to be able to devote full time to raising twins, but if he thought that this was going to get him out of changing diapers and getting up in the middle of the night with a crying child he was full of prunes! Milt allowed as how he didn't see himself as caring much for eating prunes.
My arrangement with Kevin was a little different. I really did see my role in life as loving Kevin and helping him be the best damn nuclear physicist that he could be. And that wouldn't be helped by his losing sleep with a crying child. In fact, Kevin is a wonderful man, and he always did his share of middle of the night duties. And he seemed to like to change diapers in the evening when he came home from the university or the super collider–wherever he'd been working that day. But over the years I 've been very firm with Kevin: I know he has little time for family, and I insist that it be invested in being an active father to the boys, not messing with household chores or other minutia unrelated to being the best father possible. I take care of the rest.
And, if other parents don't approve of the way that Viv and I choose to structure our lives, I wish they'd keep it to themselves. It works for us.
Milt and Viv lived in The Playhouse which has been rather carefully described in this story. If you remember, there were three long wings extending back from the main house. Milt and Viv, along with Marilyn and Carolyn, lived in the side wing next to Max's rooms–where Milt had lived before he married Viv. The house was a fantastic place for children. It had that huge great room in the middle, with a swimming pool underneath. The tunnels out back, which led to the two businesses, interconnected, so that the kids could run around from one corner of the house to the other via the tunnels. Milt and Viv's wing was equally child-friendly, with a big room for the twins and another for a playroom. It was assumed that one day the girls would want their own rooms, and one could take over the playroom. At least Viv assumed that, Milt figured that the twins would stay joined at the hip, much as he and Max had, and would want to share a room, and maybe a bed, until they were ready to get married. Remember, too, that Frank Bruder, Jennie and Bud's son and only a year older than Marilyn and Carolyn, was also living in The Playhouse.
I felt guilty spending so much time with the five kids at The Playhouse, but Viv insisted, and the house Kevin and I had built, while nice, simply couldn't compare with The Playhouse. As the kids grew older, ping pong games (The Playhouse lacked a ping pong table) and science lessons were conducted in our basement, but most other activities took place at The Playhouse.
A major activity for the group was swimming. Viv and I had the five kids in the water before they were six month old. They were introduced gradually, and had no fear at all. The four twins could swim before they could walk and Frank learned with them, but was walking first. Viv and I really enjoyed being in the pool with them as they swam around near us. Over the years they became excellent swimmers, and Tim's already envisioning Olympic medals for them, as either swimmers or divers. Milt's response to that was to suggest that it'd be a real coup for one, or all, of them to medal in both swimming and diving. Tim thought about that and simply nodded agreement. Mind you, this conversation took place poolside as five kindergartners and a first grader frolicked around in the pool and their parents and some other Gang members watched.
Flynn elementary had only two classes in each grade, beginning with kindergarten. That meant that the four twins couldn't be completely separated. Either we had to put one of each pair in a room, or each pair of twins would be in a class together. We discussed this at some length with the school principal, who felt strongly that we should break up the twin pairs. We decided that was probably the best way to arrange their classes, so Marilyn and Taylor were in one class together and Carolyn (who wanted to be Carolyn, not Carol) and Tyler were in the other. The girls always dressed as twins; the boys did so about half the time.
It wasn't that difficult to tell Marilyn from Carolyn; their noses were quite different, and since they couldn't fool people, they wore their hair slightly differently as well–even though they insisted on dressing alike. The boys were perfect clones. Even Kevin and I had a hard time telling them apart, and that only sure way to tell was to push down the pants of one of them and check for a tiny birthmark on the right butt cheek. We only did that in private, so nobody knew their secret except Kevin, me, Viv, Milt, Carolyn and Marilyn. Oh, yes, Frank could tell them apart without depantsing them, but he always refused to share his secret method. And, yes, the boys knew that if they were trying to fool the girls, one of them would get their pants pulled down so the girls could check for the birthmark.
The boys' teachers were never really sure which of the twins was staring back at them during class. The boys were quite capable of trading places at recess or lunch, and trading back at the next break–or spending the whole day pretending to be the other. They were too innocent to do that in kindergarten, but they started in first grade. It was well past Christmas when their teachers figured out what was going on, but even knowing they were being fooled they could never be sure which twin they were looking at in class.
Kevin and I got a call from one of their teachers asking for a conference, and we were told of the antics of the boys. The teacher was good-natured about it, but thought that it probably wasn't the best thing for the boys to be doing. She couldn't really say that it was impeding their education, because they were cruising through first grade about the same way that Shel had. They were always several grades ahead of themselves on the standardized tests of the era.
Kevin and I talked and decided that, while obviously a lot of fun, the boys were engaging in a form of deception, and it wasn't a good habit for them. We had a conversation with them about it, and they agreed that they really shouldn't be doing it–at least not in class. On the playground, nobody ever knew who there were talking to. If you'd yell, "Tyler," the response could come from either of the two, or both, or none. I'm getting ahead of myself here, but I should note that once they got to middle school and started undressing for gym their game was over. The other boys made it very clear that if they kept trying to fool them, they'd be stripped and their right butt cheek inspected, regardless of where they were. I don't thing that either Taylor or Tyler was particularly threatened by that, but they decided that they should give up their games. They continued to dress alike, but Tyler got a crew cut, and the game was over.
The four twins liked to sleep together, and that usually meant a sleepover at The Playhouse. Their favorite place to sleep was in the huge great room, and the other residents of the house were usually willing to let them have the room to themselves, but they understood that it was a community room and they couldn't complain if people walked through or came and sat at while, either talking with the kids, or ignoring them.
The four twins always slept naked as soon as they were potty trained and out of diapers–a feat that the girls accomplished before the boys. And I'm quite sure that the boys accomplished it much sooner than they otherwise would have because they were embarrassed to have to wear diapers when the girls didn't. A little competition never hurt anyone. And the boys liked the idea of being naked around the girls, but they couldn't be until they'd risen to the potty training challenge.
The loss of the requirement of wearing diapers led to their being naked a lot of the time, not just when swimming or sleeping. Nobody at The Playhouse was offended by their nakedness, nor at Kevin's and my house. And being naked together led to all kinds of play that would likely offend many people today. We four parents considered it healthy, but had to have a number of conversations that emphasized what was public and what was private. The kids were smart and caught on fast. They never embarrassed us.
With the kids together so much of the time, it was natural that Milt, Viv, Kevin and I, often along with Jennie and Bud, were together fairly often. This being the Gang, sex was part of our relationship. It'd begun when Viv and I were both pregnant. We were at The Playhouse for dinner, talking (as we frequently did) about the coming trials of raising identical twins. We had eaten in Milt and Viv's wing of the house–just the four of us–and were sitting around after dinner, drinking coffee. Out of the blue Milt said, "Viv, I think that Kevin and I'd like to get a better idea of what a pregnant woman looks like. Take off your clothes and show us, and they invited me to do the same."
Well, Kevin and I knew the sexual rules that Viv and Milt played by; Rule One had been discussed quite a bit throughout the Gang. Some thought it was interesting, and some, both men and women, thought it was a put-down for Viv. But the Gang respected every couple's right to organize sex as they saw fit. And we all knew that Rule One was Viv's idea, not Milt's. Well, here was Rule One staring us in the face. Viv immediately got up saying, "Milt, I think that's a great idea," and calmly removed all of her clothes. She wasn't too far along in her pregnancy, but was clearly showing an enlarged tummy. Then she looked at me and asked, "Will you join me? I think the boys might like two samples to ogle over–and let's not kid ourselves, ogling is what Milt has in mind."
I suppose I had a choice, but this was the Gang, and talking my clothes off certainly wasn't too far out in left field. Milt and I had had sex together, though I don't think he'd ever fucked me. But all of the COGs had had some form of sexual relations. Viv, however, wasn't a COG, and this was my first experience of any kind of sexual situation involving her. Kevin didn't help; he sat there completely quiet. Either he was having fun watching me handle the situation, or he was as surprised as I was and was still gathering his thoughts. I didn't really have a choice, so I stood up and removed my clothes, as sexily as a pregnant woman can.
Milt smiled and said, "Well, now it's all out in the open. Shall we join them Kevin?" They did, and soon we were all four sitting in their living room, naked as jaybirds, wondering what would come next.
As I sat there, I wondered how Viv's Rule One would apply to a foursome. Viv seemed to read my mind and said, "OK, here's the deal. I think the four of us are going to be together a lot over the next few years as we raise two sets of twins. Rule One can be a problem in that setting, as you'd have to wait for Milt to give an instruction to me before you could do anything with me. That makes no sense, but I'm not willing to sacrifice Rule One. So, quite simply, Rule One applies to both of you as well, whenever the four of us are together. Milt will explain all the details of Rule One, but neither of you are to be in the least shy about telling me what you'd like me to do, sexually. Kevin, if you want to fuck me, simply say so. If you want a blow job, ask for it. Noreen, if you want a little lesbian tryst, let me know. Not much is off limits, and I'll never be shy about telling you something is off limits."
Milt added, "But since I met her, nothing has ever been off limits to Viv."
I wasn't quite sure how to relate to the whole thing, especially since I wasn't at all willing to make the same offer. Milt read my mind. "You have to get used to Viv. This is a turn on for her, at least I think it is."
Viv interrupted, "It is, believe me."
Milt continued, "That's they most she's ever said in that regard. Thanks, Viv, for that affirmation. Nobody expects it to work for anyone but Viv. But, please understand, if you'd like sex with Viv, those are the rules. And since she's let you into Rule One, I won't be telling her to have sex with you. That'll be up to you."
Kevin, being a man, decided to see how it worked. He said, "Viv, will you come tickle my balls?"
Viv said, "Rule One."
Milt said, "You asked a question. You have to give an instruction."
Kevin said, "Viv, come over here and tickle my balls."
I watched, fascinated, as Viv did exactly as she'd been told. She went no further than instructed, obviously waiting for further instructions either from me or Kevin. I suppose that I should 've gotten into the act, but I was completely mesmerized by the scene in front of me. Kevin said, "Use your tongue on my dick." Viv complied. Then Kevin told her to do to Milt exactly what she'd done to him.
That led to all four of us being aroused and eager: two very pregnant women and two very hard men. Then Kevin completely fooled me by saying, "I know Noreen likes lesbian sex. Go over to her, kiss her, and then follow her lead till you both have orgasms."
That certainly put the ball in my court, and Viv immediately came over to me, wrapped her arms around me, and kissed me long and deeply. I reciprocated. Kevin was right, I did enjoy female sex, and I quickly worked down Viv's body from tits to genitalia. We were quickly on the floor, engaged in a furious 69, while the men watched. I came first, with Viv not far behind. I said, "Oh, Viv, that was wonderful. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did."
She answered, "Believe me, I did."
I quickly realized that Viv wasn't going to say anything to the boys; any instruction would be up to me. So I said, "OK, boys, I don't care what you do, but Viv and I want to see some sort of a show, and both Viv and I want you to share some of your male essence with us."
Milt, who had after all started all of this, walked over to the chair where Kevin was sitting, took his dick in his hand, and fisted him to climax. He spread his semen over his belly, and said to the two girls, "OK, have as much as you like."
I moved over to Milt and said, "OK, Rule One doesn't apply to you. What would you like to happen to you?"
"Whatever you'd like to do."
"Oh, no. You name your poison, or Kevin and I are simply going to put our clothes on. We know you won't get action from Viv unless you tell her what you want. So, it's speak up, or forget it."
Milt said, "OK, you win. I'm not real comfortable fucking a pregnant woman, so I'm simply going to ask the three of you to take turns sucking my dick. Somebody's going to win the prize. Enjoy."
Viv won the prize, and I think she really did enjoy. Rule One isn't for me, but I'll have to admit that it seems to work for Viv, and certainly for Milt. If it'd been Milt's idea, the women in the Gang would 've killed him. But since it was entirely Viv's idea, they can't say anything. She can order her sex life as she wishes, just as I can order my career as a housewife (to use that now-forbidden term) just as I wish.
Both sets of twins are now in fifth grade, and next year will move to middle school, where they'll be taking many high school level courses. The world is going to hear a lot more from those four as they get older.
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