The only French quints ever to survive childbirth, the Brunners made their social debut last month at Maxim's, that famous Parisian eatery celebrated in song and gastronomic guides. Of late, however, Maxim's reputation has slipped a notch, and its new owner, fashion designer Pierre Cardin, has pledged to restore its luster. Not only did Cardin throw the party, he also decked out the quints in his latest children's fashions. But mama Claude Brunner doesn't want high fashion to become a habit. "I prefer to accept hand-me-downs from friends," she explained. "We can't afford to keep them in Pierre Cardins all their lives."
Claude and her husband, Jacques, a personnel director for a metalwork company, had tried unsuccessfully for years to have children. Then she underwent hormone treatments and brought forth a full house at age 31, She promptly retired from nursery school teaching to tend to her brood. "I don't wish it on anyone," she sighs. "It's very exhausting, but we are thrilled. We really wanted them." The Brunners live quietly in Domène, a aim to bring up the quints "to be like other children." The next big test comes in September, when Gilles, Maud, Marc, Anne and Luc go off hand-in-hand-in-hand-in-hand-in-hand to small village in the Alpine foothills, and nursery school.
Quintuplets they are, but as their mama proudly notes, they are definitely not five of a kind. Confronted with their very first birthday cake, France's 3-year-old Brunner kids attacked the high-rise confection chacun à son goût. Fork at the ready, Gilles approached it with studied determination. Impatient Maud blew out the candles and, while Marc held back with Gallic skepticism, Anne leaned forward eagerly for an up-close inspection. Luc was the first to discover, though his hungry siblings soon followed suit, that chocolate cakes aren't merely for looking.