The term “third wheel” is usually only applied to awkward social situations.
It was etched on my birth certificate.
Being a younger sibling to twin sisters, it was an alliance of two against one the moment I entered the world.
That’s not to say my mom didn’t try to pass us off as triplets — matching outfits becoming a constant lingering threat — leading to a much-hated moniker of “Lynch Mob” at school.
But for as much of an alliance they had with each other, they couldn’t have been more opposite.
Their birth could be seen as an omen of what was to come. The story goes, having been told over many years and been enhanced over that time for dramatic effect, that Holly was supposed to be delivered first because she was the bigger baby. But somehow, the umbilical cord ended up around her neck, and the smaller of the two, Nicole, shoved right on past and came out first by four minutes.
Call it coincidence, call it determination, it shows an uncanny comparison to what their lives would hold for them.
While both were held back in elementary school for a reading readiness program — as my parents were told most twins had to be — Holly was there more for the reading, Nicole more for the readiness. Holly knew what had to be done to succeed, while struggling some in her lessons. Nicole was whip smart, when she chose to do her work.
Flipping all family order stereotypes, Nicole became a rebellious teen and young adult, with a history of running away and choosing to forego college right after high school to travel, jumping from city to city.
Holly was in the unfortunate position of being the middle child. Not getting the special treatment and trust the oldest receives or being spoiled like the youngest, she was stuck with the label of being the dependable one, eventually choosing a career path of medicine and becoming a registered nurse.
And as they celebrate their birthdays today, all I can think back to are the memories we shared — watching Disney movies and choosing which character we would be (always picking last, I was stuck as the villain or the fat, funny character), playing hide and seek in department store clothes racks or pretending we were mermaids when we went swimming.
There have also been difficult situations.
Believing it was her fault, Holly was inconsolable after a car hit our 11-year-old dog when we were in high school. Watching her and my mother hold the Jack Russell Terrier and take her to be buried is still heart wrenching to think about, as she was coming to pick me up from a friend’s house when Harper was struck. We both blamed ourselves.
As for Nicole, our relationship has been a lot of little things over the years. Her being the rebellious teen and me being overly responsible, we never saw eye to eye growing up. On more than one occasion it led to knockdown, drag out fights. I thought she was on the prosperous side of a double standard; she thought I was spoiled and rigid. It wasn’t until recently that we even began forming a friendship.
But it’s funny how all of that history — encapsulating the worst moments and the absolute best — leads to some of the most rewarding relationships.
Holly and I have been best friends since high school, most people believing us the set of twins in our family on first meeting. She’s constantly setting new goals for herself and her career. Seeing her grow and being there to support her over the years has been a highlight of my life.
Nicole doesn’t conform to anyone’s standards except her own, something I couldn’t appreciate before but have grown to admire over the last few years. Her rebellious years paid off with an abundance of stories and experiences and a newfound determination to also receive a degree in nursing. She’s taken risks that have paid off, and it’s commendable.
Third wheel isn’t a label I ever wanted, but it’s one that I’ve grown into. Being a third part of a sisterhood with them isn’t something to belittle but to laud, even if throughout school my name was never Kelly but simply “the twins’ little sister.”
The title is a proud one to bear.