When they were born 25 years ago, identical triplets Alexander, Nicholas and Duncan Schilcher became instant Island celebrities. Their birthday parties were front page news, and the Gazette chronicled their development as toddlers. But years passed and the triplets grew up, relatively out of the public eye. So here is the news update on the Schilcher triplets of Vineyard Haven: Except for one year during college, they have remained inseparable, sleeping in the same bedroom and working side by side in the family catering business founded by their mother Jaime Hamlin. They finish each other’s sentences. They share the same deep belly laugh. And this week they had their first amicable breakup. Nicholas and Duncan have moved into an apartment in Boston, while next month Alexander strikes out for Los Angeles. Between packing and catering gigs, the triplets took a moment to talk about what it means to be the three of us.
We’re 99.8 per cent identical triplets. It’s a fact.
We were born on March 14, 1982 in the Dorchester Saint Margaret’s Hospital, this special multiples hospital. And Mom was airlifted six weeks prior to giving birth to us from the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital to there and she had to lie on her back for six weeks and she ate a jar of peanut butter and a big bar of chocolate at night. They made her do it for the protein, to get our weight up. They knew we were having trouble. To this day, she hates peanut butter and doesn’t like chocolate. And to this day, we all love peanut butter and love chocolate.
We were born a month and a half premature, so we were very tiny, very complicated kids. We all weighed around three to four pounds. Duncan was going to die, but he didn’t, obviously. But they said he was going to. My mom reaches over, after giving birth to triplets, all doped up. She reaches over, drags the guy across the desk and goes, “That’s not going to happen,” and tosses him back. She looks over to [my father] Raymond and goes, “Raymond, go sit by Duncan,” — we were in little incubators — “go sit by him and keep your hand on him until he survives.” And Dad kept his hand on him and patted him until he made it.
We were sent from the hospital back to the Vineyard a month later. So we were in incubators for a month. And a month after we got back, we were diagnosed with Pyloric Stenosis [a gastrointenstinal condition]. It’s an infantile disease and we’re actually in the Guinness Book of World Records for it. We were the first recorded triplets in medical history to have Pyloric Stenosis. Mom was like, “No, No, Send them back.” But they fixed us and we all have scars in the same place and I think that’s why we’re all vegetarians.
[I’m] the leader. Duncan’s the wild child, the loose cannon, the one I have to keep the closest eye on. Nicky’s the quiet enforcer. I’ll organize something, but I need a right-hand man. And he’s the right hand man that will be with me, know exactly what I’m thinking, know exactly what needs to get done and doesn’t have to ask. It’s like having another you that you don’t have to ask to do something. He’ll just do it. And he’ll do it the way you want it done because it’s an extension of you. He knows what I like, I know what he likes, so it’s easier for he and I to get things done together than apart.
We call Duncan the monkey wrench. Nicky and I are well-greased machines. We know what’s going on, we work well together. I’m the wheel and Nicky’s the grease. He greases the wheel. Duncan comes into the scene and throws a monkey wrench into the wheel, I get off course, Nicky can’t pump the grease. It’s a mess, but it can be more fun. Duncan sometimes brings that element where we can slide around in the grease together. He’s the guy that livens things up sometimes.
I’ll have issues with them about important stuff or not important stuff, but it’s never, I hate you or I don’t want to see you. We never physically fight. We’ve never really fought. We never really disagree about major issues. Our relationship is dysfunctionally perfect.
I’m going to Los Angeles. I’ll miss them to high heavens. I’ll be in Los Angeles and I’ll turn around and be like, “Nicky, let’s go do something.” I guarantee I’ll do it, probably for the first six months and then realize that they’re not there. We’ve never been apart for more than a week, I’d say, or two weeks. That is what is so great about being a triplet. You always have two best friends that look the same, that like the same stuff, that are your family on top of it. It was awesome. You had your own basketball squad, three on three, at all times.
It’s an experience that no one else will ever know because we’re so unique. I will never ever meet — I challenge you to find me identical triplet boy vegetarian Guinness Book World Record holders living on Martha’s Vineyard, or a place like it. Nowhere in the world will you find that. We are unique as unique as unique can be.
Teachers, they couldn’t tell us apart until pretty much seventh or eighth grade, which made it tough. They used to put our names on our hands. They’d put the initial on our hands every morning in permanent marker, so that’s how they told us apart.
[Mom] will sometimes call us the wrong name from behind, which is understandable. We were always worried that, when we were in the hospital she put little hats on us with our names on it, and we were always worried that we were actually different names. I was always wondering if I was actually Duncan or Alex.
I admire Alex for always taking charge. He’s going to California and searching to be a grown up or whatever, starting fresh. I admire the fact that Duncan is a free spirit and he likes just being free and being himself. He’s not afraid to speak his mind and go for what he wants. With Alex, I’m just pretending it’s not happening until it does. It’s going to be tough because we’ve never been that far away, ever. It’s just going to have to be what it is. I mean, I’m not looking forward to it. I guess it had to happen sometime and I guess this is the time.
Z [Alexander] likes to think he’s the leader. Most of the time, we all just go with the flow. He likes to organize things and I guess I’m second in command. I like to tag along and make sure things go smooth and everyone’s having a good time. And Duncan’s just there to have a good time, too. As a whole, we get along great. There’s never really any problems. If one of us wants to go to sleep, we just usually turn off the TV and all go to sleep.
I think it makes for a different dynamic where you have to share everything and you don’t really have much privacy, but you just get used to it. It’s made me probably a nicer person because the other person is always right there. You can’t be mean. It teaches you how to have good friendships. One of the best things, I’d say, would be being able to just laugh over the silliest things, like jokes that have gone on for our whole lives. Knowing that someone’s always there that you can talk to, they’re just there, someone you can count on for anything. The most annoying things? Well, of course being called the wrong names all the time, which I’m used to, I don’t really care, but it can get annoying.
People would never know which order to sing our names in Happy Birthday. No one would ever coordinate it, so it was always like, “blah blah blah . . . . happy birthday to you.” My mom, even though she does catering, she was always worried that she’d throw a bad party for us. She told us later that she secretly always hated our birthdays because they were so stressful. But I thought she threw the best birthday parties of anyone. Most siblings don’t get along. Since we’ve been together since we were in the womb, it’s just a natural thing. Most of the time, we don’t even have to talk about things or what’s going on, it’s just an unspoken bond we have. We’ll think, “Oh, I don’t want to watch this show.” And we don’t even have to say it, and someone will turn the channel. We talk to each other in our sleep almost every night. People will sleep over and will say, “You’re talking like it’s a regular conversation.” I think that says a lot about just the connection we have.
We’re tighter than most families, I’d have to say. That’s for sure. We work together just about every day. It’s nice to have such a close relationship with everyone, that we get along so well and we rarely fight. If we do, it’s over stupid stuff like who left dishes in the sink. I think it’s a blessing that we have to stick together for so long and we will continue to be a close knit family. I think it has a lot to do with us being triplets, you know. We’re so close that everyone sort of pig piles on top.
We share underwear. There is no way, unless I buy boxer briefs, which they don’t wear, to know the underwear is mine. We all fit into each other’s, except for Nige [Nicholas] now. He’s medium and I’m like, I am not fitting into a medium. So his clothes now are his clothes. The whole clothes thing is annoying, but not annoying because we, I, have two wardrobes. It’s a blessing too. We shared our presents. We share everything. We shared a womb. We’re probably the most sharing people you’ll ever meet because it’s ingrained in us, sharing. Just from life, from being a triplet, you have to share. It was just basically life. You’re sharing a room, you’re sharing your clothes, you’re sharing everything, which is great, it’s a beautiful thing. I’m glad that’s how we were raised.
We didn’t want to go to school. It was hard for us because we switched schools halfway through kindergarten. We finished each other’s sentences — we still do — and we just didn’t care about anyone else. We were in our own little world. In high school, we drifted apart. They had their friends. But we got closer when we went back to college. Since seventh grade, I’ve had my own friends, I’ve had my own identity, I’ve had my own interests, I’ve done my own thing. But I’ve always come back to them.
Nick’s the quiet, thoughtful, artistic one. Alex is take charge, I’m gonna do it and round everyone up and be the ringleader. All of us in our family are really good at that. Mom always taught us to be leaders and we’re natural leaders. So we’re all like that, but Alex really took that and still plays that role with us and with his friends. Their integrity, their honesty, their loyalty. It’s going to make me cry. They were my best friends, definitely. I can look at them and pretty much know what they’re thinking sometimes, without talking. We don’t need to talk to each other a lot. They are like soul best friends. Best friends doesn’t even do it justice. No one else can make me laugh that hard, except for my mom. And [our younger brother] Mac. And, well, everyone in the family.
Life is very strange and I know that I came into this world with three people for a reason. I haven’t quite figured it out yet, but I know that it’s not by accident. We came in as a crowd and I’m most comfortable in crowds. We’re a crowd. We’re not a couple, we’re not a single, we are a crowd. And it’s wonderful. People always say, “Oh, that must have sucked being a triplet.” And I look them straight in the eye and say, “You have no idea what you’re talking about.” The quote I always think about, you come into this world alone and you die alone and I’m like, Uh, uh, uh! Sure didn’t come into the world alone. I came in with a party and I’m going to leave with a party.