The two of them ran out of school together, their hair wild and their coats unbuttoned – a public argument against fathers staying home with children. They raced as they often do. Well, race might be inaccurate as the seven year old was intent on winning while the eight year old was content to chase. The seven year old won. She always does.

“How was school?” I asked the seven year old as she leapt into the van.

“Fine,” she shrugged and collapsed into her seat.

“You learn anything?”

She shook her head. She always does.

“Who did you play with?” I asked.

In answer, she simply pointed to her eight year old sister who climbed into the van already telling us everything that happened that day in what must be the most eventful second grade classroom in America.

Because of her continuous storytelling, the names of her classmates are legendary in the Archbold house while my seven year old still refers to a child in her class as “that kid with brown hair and the black eye.” (The child fortunately has not had a black eye since the first week of school but I guess she feels for classification purposes it’s a helpful identifier.)

My seven year old and my eight year old are what they call “Irish twins.” They’re eleven months and a universe apart. They couldn’t be more different right from the eight year old’s curly hair to the seven year old’s perennially moving feet. They’re a nature/nurture study waiting for funding. Yet, oddity of oddities, they couldn’t be closer.

I announced we were heading to the mall Friday to pick up a gift for a birthday party the two of them were invited to this weekend. You see, just one of them is never invited. It’s always the two of them.

My children love going to the mall mainly because they’re Merry-Go-Round kids. Most of them anyway. My kids have their favorite horses and we never leave without riding Raindrop, Sassafras, and Lucky, and Bullet. We sometimes have to wait to ride even though there’s plenty of other horses available just because somebody else’s child was on one of their horses.

My eight year old seems to love it especially. She waves to Raindrop as he/she/it (?) disappears from view and then she delights at its reappearance, like a reliable game of hide and seek. I think my seven year old lost interest when she figured out that the dumb old horse just brings her back to where she’s already been. She still rides but that’s mainly because she’s never done anything apart from the eight year old. She doesn’t know the name of the horse she rides. She just knows it’s the one next to her sister’s Raindrop.

My seven-year old was born head first. And her feet have been doing all the work since. She runs up escalators because “it’s twice as fast.” And she waits at the top for her older sister who just doesn’t see any sense in climbing steps when the escalator’s so accommodating; as if walking up an escalator would be ungracious.

As we sat in the food court eating a pretzel, the seven year old moved from seat to seat with all the permanence of a carnival while the eight year old chatted like an old man in a barber chair.

When they selected gifts for the girl whose party they were attending the eight year old picked some princessy pink thingie while the seven year old picked an action figure. ( I assumed the child will like at least one of them.)

When tossing coins into the wishing fountain at the mall, my eight year old closed her eyes as if squeezing her eyelids shut made her wish more likely to come true. She tossed her coin into the air and announced her wish to everyone in the mall. My seven year old no sooner got the coin when she heaved it as hard and far as she could. When I asked her if she even remembered to make a wish she smiles and says “I know what I want.” She always does.

But she doesn’t tell me.

I ask her more questions than all my other children combined. I tell my wife sometimes that I don’t really get my seven year old. But to be fair she never stood in one spot long enough to get. My wife laughs because she says that she reminds her of me when she first met me.

When we got back home from the mall we all walked towards the house hand in hand. But the seven year old suddenly released my hand and raced ahead as if she alone were suddenly caught in an invisible rainstorm. I let her go and watched after her.

The eight year old looked up at me and shrugged. Then she chased her. She always does.

After dinner, we turned off all the lights in the house and I got the flashlights from the drawer and we played hide and seek. Me and the two year old were “it.” We always are. I found the eight year old easily. But she plays to be found. The seven year old on the other hand plays to hide. It can take quite a while to find her. But I seek her out. I always do.