Many people eat two eggs for breakfast with two pieces of toast. Almost everyone has two feet, two hands, and two eyes and ears. Some garages have two cars in them, while some houses have two bedrooms or two bathrooms. Two. A pair. And then we can add to that looking in the mirror and seeing another person just like us… Not real of course because it is a reflection of ourselves. But ears and ears match, don’t they? They look the same, right to left or left to right? And there are persons who are that way as well, We call them identical twins. They are a pair who look just the same.
In my lifetime I’ve known a few sets of twins. My uncle is a twin. I have a close friend who married a twin. And I went to school with a couple sets of twins.
Fourth grade, I’m the new kid in the class (again) and this time I had to learn not only all those new names, I needed to learn how to tell two little girls apart that, for me, looked exactly alike. I would say “Jacki…” and she would answer, “No, I’m Vicki.” I would say “Vicki…” and hear “No. I’m Jacki.” It was maddening to always have it wrong, while everyone else seemed to know exactly which one was the right one every single time!
I tried various methods of getting it right. I’d enter the class room, see them in their perspective seats, and try to memorize something about their clothing that day, which was different, one from the other. That didn’t work because we’d go outside for recess and with coats on, my advantage seemed to disappear with all the movement. Finally in defeat I asked one of the other children how to tell them apart. The answer was unrewarding. The first answer was, “What? They don’t look anything alike,” and the other was “Don’t worry about it. One day you’ll come to school and they won’t look at all alike anymore. Just wait…”
What? That’s nuts, right? There’s no such thing as magic! And yet, one day I came to school and that’s exactly the way it went. How did that happen? It’s because they may look alike, but they are two different souls. And yet, as they grew up we still called them “the twins” as if they were one. Believe me they’re not. Their styles, while both compelling, were and are, different.
All through school I was fascinated by these two very talented and intelligent girls who could seemingly do anything and do it well. And, not only that, they were pretty and very interesting. I admired their ability to respect their differences and be themselves… Yet, both were cheerleaders, both on the tumbling team, both in National Honor Society, they were the same but not… There were two standout moments that were learning moments for me.
The first was when Vicki and I ran against each other for Student Body Secretary. I had an excellent campaign manager. We worked well together and I felt I had a pretty good chance of winning this thing. Then came one of those “learning moments” that pointed out all too clearly… “Always understand your assets.” And these two surely knew theirs. Jacki walked to the podium to introduce her sister for her campaign speech… She waited a moment while the audience settle itself, she leaned into the microphone and said,”My name is Jacki and I’m campaign manager for the girl sitting over there that looks just like me.” It was jaw dropping and brilliant all in the same moment, and I knew that I was probably not going to be Student Body Secretary. What I did gain was the understanding of Shakespeare’s words, “Know thyself.” And from that time on I made it a point to check who I was, what I was, and what I wanted to become. In high school I was just sort of going along and trying to fit into the scene. No more. Thank you Jacki and Vicki for that moment.
The next learning moment came in the fall of the following year. That time when all the school was thinking Homecoming and football. Most everyone seemed to have already gone home, but I, like always, was still there doing some kind of rehearsal or attending some meeting. I stepped out of the school’s front doors all by myself and walked that long wide pavement to the street… There at the curb, to my surprise, were all the Homecoming queen candidates having their photos taken for the year book. Each of the five candidates was standing next to a convertible (they may have even been Corvettes if I call correctly). Both Jacki and Vicki were dressed in formals, but they were as different as different could be. Not the same color, not the same style, both very pretty, and both revealing two completely different personalities. It took me back to that campaign moment… How amazing, I thought, that we don’t explore ourselves more fully as these two probably do. They looked just alike; but they were free to be who they were, which was a pair of very different people. To this day, I would have to say that in my childhood, they were the ones I most respected and from whom I learned the best life lesson. Years later, an amazing thing happened…
Fast forward to our most recent class reunion. Jacki and Vicki came over to me and mentioned how much they liked my writing. (I’m not sure what they’d read… My book a news article or this blog.) Like all professional writers I was very pleased; I thanked them and asked my husband if he would take a photo of us together. And that’s when it happened… I said, “Would you take a picture of me with The Twins?” One of them sort of laugh a little and said “the twins.”
And from that moment on, I have wondered at those two words. The Twins. Did that mean that all this time they had felt as if I or anyone else they grew up with, saw them as one instead of two? Did they feel as if their own personal identity was invisible? At that moment, I saw them not through my own views but perhaps theirs. It came to me that I had never told them, either one, that I did see two very amazing and different young women. That I admired them for what I felt they had (each of them) done to be themselves instead of the stereo typical little girl twins. (And could I go further and say that there is no such thing as only these twins who are individual but ALL twins?
Well, by the time I was on my way home from this reunion, I was hearing that Twin reply over and over in my head with new meaning. I was asking myself why I never told them how truly remarkable I believed they both were and are. And so simple, right? I was so busy admiring them that I never said a word to them. I had the two of them on this sort of pedestal. And I of all people should understand the idiocy of that; for when I toured as a soprano soloist and leading lady, it bothered me that my talent always seemed to walk through the door before I did. “Would you sign my program?” “Would you sing for us?” “Would you have your photo taken with me?” I got so tired of never being a person and always a convenient commodity, and I’m sure “the twins” didn’t much care for it either!
So right now, in writing, I apologize to those two beautiful women with whom I grew up, for not telling them how amazing they always have been and will always be… Two of a kind, but very beautifully different.
In writing this piece, I hoped that I would have some comments from twins to enrich the words, but sadly there were no takers. If you’re a twin reading this, I’d welcome your comments on the subject since I’d like to write on this again. What’s it like to look just like someone else, but be (possibly) different? How did you grow up? I will say this for the two little girls I’ve known since fourth grade who are twins… They were a pair of little girls, that became “Amazing women.”
May your day be filled with double joy, as we close this topic on Two of a Kind….
Carolyn Thomas Temple