I was eagerly picking out Red Sox margarita glasses while waiting for our flight home when one of my 5-year-old twin boys approached me.
“Mommy!” Mason called loudly, eyeing my pile of merchandise. “I’m sick of Red Sox!”
I stared at him like he’d just renounced hot dogs, pizza and macaroni and cheese.
“You know what I really need?” He put his hands on his hips. “I need a Yankees hat!”
Although we live in Colorado, my family back in New England has always helpfully sent Red Sox gear for the boys—little baseball caps, mitts, and matching red, blue and grey T-shirts. I should have noticed, but I hadn’t realized these items were most often worn by Mason’s identical twin, Magnus.
Our babies looked so much alike at birth that I cried when my husband cut off the hospital ankle bracelets. How was I going to tell them apart? I started color-coding, buying the same onesies and hats in opposing colors. Magnus was always red or orange, and Mason blue or green. With identical strawberry blond hair and blue eyes, the clothing colors made it easier for me (and everyone else) to distinguish them. Later on, when old enough to choose, the boys still stuck to their palettes.
At preschool, the clues “green/blue” or “red/orange” didn’t help their friends. The other kids efficiently addressed one twin or both as “MagnusMason.” The boys never complained, and we grown-ups thought it was cute.
As they got older, a favorite auntie taught them to play checkers with a set featuring mini Red Sox and Yankees batting helmets. I didn’t give it much thought that Mason was often the blue and white team.
But now here he was in front of me.
“Mommy!” Mason said again, as loud as an official over the PA system. “You need to buy me a Yankees hat!”
© Courtesy Ellen Nordberg
I felt the heads of every employee and shop patron snap in our direction like we’d knocked over a wind chime display. I set the margarita glasses down.
My son was insulting my beloved Red Sox in Boston. Even worse: We could buy a Sox cap in any color we wanted, including pink, but I knew no one would sell us a Yankees hat in the middle of Logan Airport.
I contemplated tackling Mason, planting a hand over his mouth, and burying him under the display table before TSA could collect us for questioning.
Instead, I knelt down in front of him. “Sweetheart,” I said, my eyes pleading with him to cool it. “We’re Sox fans, remember?”
“No, Mommy. No,” he repeated. “I love the Yankees.”
A guy snickered by the trail mix rack behind me.
I started to correct Mason again, but then Magnus ran over in his Sox cap to check out the fuss. The mood in the store shifted.
“Oh my God, are they twins?” the clerk asked. “Identical? How do you tell them apart?”
“One’s a Sox fan and the other likes the Yankees?” trail mix dude said. “That’s just wrong.”
I looked at Magnus in his red and white striped T-shirt, and then at Mason, the mirror image in a blue and white version. Suddenly I got it.
It wasn’t about baseball, or team loyalties, or even the cities involved.
It was just a little boy trying to establish his own identity.
I’d been so busy making it easier for me, our friends and even the kids’ teachers to tell the boys apart, it hadn’t occurred to me what it must feel like for them to be lumped together as “MagnusMason,” or called the wrong name at least half of the time. Mason didn’t want to wear Red Sox gear because he wanted to distinguish himself from his brother.
I swallowed my personal feelings about the Yankees, and found Mason the hat he wanted at our local Target. I also stepped up my efforts for individual playdates, and my husband and I worked on alternative clues for others to tell them apart—Magnus is a smidgen taller, and Mason’s eyes are slightly closer set.
In the end, I supported Mason’s choice to root for the Jets over the Patriots, too. (He saved up to buy a green Jets sweatshirt he never takes off.) No one’s had the heart to tell him that in New York, Yankees fans don’t root for the Jets—they root for the Giants. But even if we told him, I know what he’d say. There’s a little bit of red in those Giants uniforms. And that’s Magnus’s color.