Twin in the Fraternal Order of Things: Back-story of a Poem
I glimpse you in me
No mirror image but the subtle
sharing of cell experience
“I may be a twin but I’m one of a kind” unknown author said.
I identified with him because in spite of being born a fraternal twin it was a constant challenge maintaining my own identity. (Despite the fact that my twin sister and I do not physically resemble one another.)
My fraternal twin was born with red hair and my hair was brown.
Neither parent had red hair, and she was to take a lot of teasing about it. “Where do you get that (wink, wink) red hair?”
My sister was a couple of inches taller me, weighed slightly more, and her facial features were those shared by a sibling rather than twin.
When I looked at pictures in the family album, I could see some resemblance, but when people gushed that we looked just like twins, I suspected they were “looking to see” rather looking objectively at two little girls.
Mom dressed us alike all the way up to the fifth grade. It was therefore harder to establish different identifies when people did the ‘identifying’ for us.
My sister was shyer, and looked to me for guidance on what to do. I, being more aggressive, would often do things before considering the consequences of my actions, or as my dad might put it, I failed to engage my brain before putting my mouth in gear.
We know the sun’s time by the same rising
Feel the night at each other’s back
When we seek the settling sleep
As twins we experienced time in the same way. That is to say, we experienced our parents and sister at the exact age.
Events were experienced at the exact age (Although our perceptions of the event would differ.)
When people say that we come into the world alone and we die alone they’re not talking about twins.
Twins come into the world together. We shared the same bed (womb) before we were born and we entered the world (within minutes) of each other.
There is a bond there that cannot be adequately explained.
When we slept together, my sister often occupied my dreams, and it was only when I awakened, would I be able to become a separate entity.
I learn the alphabet with letters broad, loose
running off the page in after thoughts
You, fix the ABC’s in small neat symbols knuckling
under tenacious mind
They say that there is a high IQ correlation for identical twins, (similar intelligence) with Fraternals twins the IQ can vary by a number of points.
I don’t know about that, (I think we’re both smart) I only know that we learn things in a different way.
As a young girl the alphabet fascinated me, and one of the most exciting (and liberating) time in my life was when I began to learn my ABC’s and make the connection between letters and the words they formed.
I still remember what it felt like when I first made that connection: it smelled of chalk dust and floor cleaner; I was seated at the old wooden desk with a hole for the inkwell (we used pencils) and I had a “Fun with Dick and Jane” reader in my hand.
But your letters were always neat and precise and you looked in askance at my sloppy alphabet shapes.
And when we took the primary hues in coloring books
You outlined color book characters as if your life depended on it
Years later you swore it did
Covered maps with perfect multicolored states
Even got the rivers right
I confused capitals and gave Rhode Island
The land mass of California
When we worked in our coloring books, I soon got impatient on how we were ‘supposed’ to color.
“Santa’s Robe is always red, Joann. Have you even seen a blue rose? Your sun in this picture—why is it shaped like a pear?”
Whereas the pages of my sister’s coloring book would have won prizes for its neatness and correctness, mine were ‘creative’, or as my third grade teacher would say, ‘sloppy’.
You painstakingly outlined Santa’s coat with bright red, and then carefully shaded it in. I might make Santa’s coat red and black, and give him a black hat for good measure.
And when we were to create maps with states and capitals, I got off on some of the names of the state capitals and how they sounded when the teacher named them, (Little Rock Arkansas, Cheyenne Wyoming, Baton Rouge Louisiana and my favorite of all, Olympia Washington) and I would ‘forget’ the capitals that sounded boning.
Unfortunately, loving the sound of some state capitals didn’t get me more than a C on my map of states.
My sister got an A whereby the comment on my map was, “Why isn’t your map neat like your twins?”
We came through the same treatment plant
of Dorothy, Alice and Nancy Drew grown
into the MGM musical
Searched our beings in dog-eared silver screens
Saw our faces reflected in glycerin tears
Our nemesis in Rhett’s last speech to
a Scarlett ideal
As fraternals we were born and reared in the same family environment, but we had the advantage (unlike identical) as experiencing the family in a different way.
Our parents could always tell us apart (just by looking at us) and that gave us the freedom to be our own person, rather than having our parents experience us two people who look (and think) alike.
Perhaps one has to reach full height before
beginning to grow
You scraped the ceiling
I lost the white glove
Before we climbed out the rabbit hole
by mastering long division
In spite of the advantage of being a fraternal twin rather than an identical twin there were still adjustments.
There came a time when we had to separate and that happened about the time of puberty. Since you were more dependent you came to rely on me in ways that impeded your own growth.
I remember an incident when we were both cast in a school play and you expected me learn your lines so that I could prompt you should you forget them.
I didn’t. (I figured it was all I could do to learn mine)
You did forget your lines.
I couldn’t prompt you because I was concentrating on my own lines. After the play you were so mad you didn’t talk to me for a week. The absurdity of that request never crossed your mind.
I had let you down. End of conversation.
We learned that being fraternal twins carried some of the same baggage as identical twins but without the ‘perks’.
In primary school if there were not enough books to go around, the teacher said, “the twins can share off one’.
To this day I have a lifelong love of books but have an aversion to sharing them with anyone. Moreover, I can’t stand being read to: being read to activate all those old tapes of reading off the same page.
Back then in the l940’s we often shared a lunch pail. We took turns ‘remembering’ our lunch boxes, and come noon, if one of us forgot it, we had to go home and get it or go without lunch.
Could this account for (years later) lunch being my favorite part of the day and getting angry if I have to skip it?
C’est Vrai! (It’s true!)
And then there is the matter of gift giving.
I love presents. To this day, I love getting them and that might be due to the fact that my birthday was shared by two others.
Yes that’s right my mother had my older sister on the same day three years later on December 30!
Consider this—there are three girls in a family (where money is tight) who share the same birthday, and this birthday is five days after Christmas, and to top it off my twin sister and I often got the same things, whether it was clothes, jewelry, socks or bubble bath there were two of them. We learned to open the package at the exact time so we could both be ‘surprised’.
When we opened the present, the well-meaning gift giver would exclaim—-wasn’t it lucky that I could find two of the same things!
Lucky, was not the word we would have chosen..
But in spite of all the trials and tribulations of being born a fraternal twin twenty-three days before Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.
My twin and I are close to this day. We have our disagreements, (and my older sister still has to occasionally act as a referee) but my twin is no longer dependent on me and has come into her own.
During the holidays or birthdays we take a long time getting the ‘right thing.’
Whatever it is we decide upon, it has to be something that reflects who we are as individuals not what we are (twins).
And I’m happy to add; my twin has ‘loved’ all my gifts, and no longer looks to me for all ‘the answers’.
What’s more, I’m happy to report there is not one time that I’ve had to memorize her lines.