An hour before the announcement ceremony, Great-Grandmother Enota and Father stole a quiet moment with Heather and me. The two sat on the edge of my parents’ bed with Heather resting on Father’s lap and me on Great-Grandmother's. Both were dressed to the nines. Father wore a crisply pressed suit of the darkest crimson with shiny gold epaulettes, matching sash, and a pure white cape for some extra flair. Great-Grandmother donned a straight-cut, high-collared scarlet dress where the crystal-tipped shawl wrapped around her shoulders glittered a kaleidoscope with each small shift. An intricate hairpiece of more crystals bound her intense silver curls into a mature bun.
And it was those curls, in fact, that led to this impromptu lesson. Heather had the same on her head.
“Hers will be the more problematic case. Although she has a lot of hair, the strands are fine, and the curls can be hard to manage,” Great-Grandmother explained.
“Thank goodness I have one with plenty of experience to help,” Father chuckled.
I counted Heather and myself lucky. Hair truly did explode from our scalps. Theo and Lucian only had the thinnest of wisps upon their heads, meaning when they yawned or cried their scrunched rolls of baby chub made them look like old men.
“Each of their hair should be approached differently. Evianna’s you will want to avoid brushing while wet. The strands will be more prone to snapping and breaking. On the other hand, brushing Heather’s while dry will result in the curls turning to easily damaged frizz. Putting some softener on a wide tooth comb and gently working her hair in sections while bathing is the best. In both cases, brush from bottom to top. Starting from the roots will make the knots bunch, pull, and, again, damage the hair.”
Great-Grandmother took a little comb perfect for a head my size to gently demonstrate as she spoke. I closed my eyes in delight. Not going to lie, some of the best things about being a baby were all the cuddles and massages. Great-Grandmother softly working that comb soothed me with the repetitive, scratching motion.
“Spritz Heather’s hair with this.”
It was the cutest sight watching Father take the spray bottle, carefully dampen Heather’s hair, and never blink as he cautiously worked her curls. I really had gotten lucky being born in a more traditional, less technologically-developed, monarchy-led world where my father cared enough to learn how to tend to his daughters’ hair instead of leaving it to Mother or a nanny.
However...perhaps Father’s care truly wasn’t out of the ordinary here. A large influence on the traditional gender roles established on Earth was religion. Evthea had a sizeable pantheon of gods and goddesses. Citizens worshipped all to some extent, but each country primarily followed a certain deity. For Solstice, that was Iteus— the sun god. I didn’t know much of what he taught, instructed, or demanded, but if there’d never been that call for men to be the providers and women to be the caregivers it made sense both did everything equally.
“They’re like day and night,” Father said after a moment of quiet, beaming. He scooted himself closer to Great-Grandmother. Heather was gently lifted and placed until her now silken strands fell and mixed with mine.
“It is quite astounding, isn’t it? Your sons can scarcely be told apart, but your daughters are this distinct. What a unique mix, regardless of the rarity of them coming together.”
“I do wish, in a way, they hadn’t. I would still want them all, of course, but more like...”
“Heather would be first, Theo and Lucian following a little later, and then a few years past that Evianna would come?”
“Yes, if only for how terribly fast everything is moving. The exhausting pace of keeping up forced these three months into a blur. I’ve lived through the days, but it’s as if I have no memory.”
“You don’t want to miss a single moment with any of them,” Great-Grandmother guessed, a knowing smile upon her lips.
“Not a single moment, no.”
“The natural answer to give is that reality will not change. The children are here, and they are here together. However, I will say this— even should they have come spaced apart, you would still miss moments. A demanding meeting keeping you from them all, changing Theo and Lucian’s diapers instead of coloring with Heather, taking Heather into the city unaware Evianna is about to take her first step...things like that.”
“A fair point,” Father conceded.
“The days will get easier as well. Not that they’ll be easy by any means, but the children are healthier. You and Renira are growing experienced as parents. The two of you are also free to leave these adorable ones with me whenever you’d like, for I don’t want to miss a moment either. I’m glad I’ve lived to see my great-grandchildren. My heart will be filled with happiness when they marry and head towards parenthood themselves, even if I’m watching with Sutuna.”
“Gawain and I are in our eighties, dear. We’re aware our time left isn’t significant.” She patted his arm.
“It doesn’t mean I have to like the thought,” Father pouted. He leaned against her shoulder only for the epaulette to press on them uncomfortably, prompting him to straighten.
“Of course. On a day like today, it isn’t the time for conversation so dour either.”
Sutuna, huh? The goddess of death, perhaps? A muted knock reverberated from the main door to halt the chance for more clarification.
“And it looks like we simply have no time for more conversation. That should be Jona coming to collect us,” Great-Grandmother reasoned.
Father stood taking Heather and I each in an arm, shaking off the somberness that’d crept in and proudly admiring our locks. “You two are prepped and beautiful. Ready to meet the world?”