August 29, 2006

Double

It was fall of 1982, and I was student teaching sixth grade at a middle school in North Country Town. One of my students was a girl named Linda, who was friendly and nice and smart, the kind of student who never caused trouble. I'd been there a few weeks and knew the students pretty well, when one morning, the strangest thing happened.

As the students were coming in, grabbing books and tossing off coats, Linda walked in and sat down at her desk. She looked up at me and smiled.

And I gasped. Because it wasn't Linda. She looked just like Linda -- the same light brown hair, the same blue eyes, the same mannerisms, the same type clothes -- but something was wrong. She looked exactly like Linda, and yet it was not her. I can't even explain how I knew, but I was sure. It was one of those weird moments out of Star Trek.

All kinds of scenarios went through my mind. Had Linda been kidnapped by aliens? Was this girl seated at the desk in front of me really an alien who had used her DNA to morph into her likeness? Had some creature slithered out of the deep to suck out her soul? What was going on?

"Hello Miss Jo(e)," the creature said calmly. It even knew my name!

"You ... you ... you aren't Linda, " I stammered.

Yeah, that is all I could come up with. Unlike Star Trek characters, I don't have a team of writers to come with good lines for me. Instead, I just stood there gaping like a fool.

Then I noticed the other kids in the room watching. They were smiling. And unafraid. They didn't see the least bit worried that the classmate they'd known for years had morphed into someone else. Were they all aliens too? Was this some kind of Night of the Living Dead situation?

"We knew she couldn't fool you," said PigtailGirl. She tossed her braids over her shoulders. "That's not Linda. It's Laura. They're twins."

Identical twins! For some reason that possibility had not occurred to me. But it did make just a little more sense than the whole alien kidnapping theory.

I hadn't thought about this in years, until yesterday, on the first day of class. I was taking attendance, trying to learn the names, and had gone through the whole list, when suddenly I glanced down and noticed that two students had the same last name. I looked to my right, at BoyWithDarkHair and then to my left, at BoyWithSameDarkHair.

Somehow I hadn't noticed the first time through how much alike they looked. In fact, they looked exactly alike.

BoyWithDarkHair noticed me looking.

"Yep," he said, "We're twins."
"No one can tell us apart," said BoyWithSameDarkHair.
"Even my mother gets us confused," said BoyWithDarkHair.

A new twist to the first week challenge of learning names. But at least they haven't played a practical joke on me. Yet.

29 comments:

Lisa V said...

We have identical twin girls at school. Bless their mother, they have different haircuts.

Who knows how my life would have been improved if I had an identical twin that could take algebra and science tests for me ? That was always my fantasy.

Linda (FM) said...

I went to elementary school with a set of identical twin boys. They frequently switched classes to see what would happen. They got away with it pretty often too. Most of kids could tell them apart, but we never ratted them out when they switched. I think we admired the power they had to fool the teachers.

Scrivener said...

I've got a student with an identical twin, but she goes to a different school. Or at least that's what she told me!

I've also got a student who's a quadruplet, but two of her siblings are at other schools, and the sister she rooms with is not identical. Or at least that's what she told me!

ppb said...

I always thought that would be so cool.

Anonymous said...

Remember when I told Mr. Drpoychar we were identical twins and he believed it? Funny since you were dark haired, and I of couse was the red- haired sister.

jo(e) said...

Red-haired Sister: Well, that was just ridiculous. We looked nothing alike.

But remember the Tall Lanky Twins? I think you dated one of them. Didn't they sometimes take tests for each other? The teachers couldn't tell them apart.

Billie said...

A few years ago, I had twin men in a first-semester and a second-semester writing course (they took both courses). I could never tell them apart, and I never saw them apart from each other. After an entire year with them, I never knew which name I was asking to respond to me. Eventually they told me how to tell them apart . . . and I feel like a fool that I never caught on: one wore a hat and the other didn't. During her competitive soccer play, my daughter played with two of three identical triplets. More than once the third triplet subbed for one of her sisters!

Chip said...

I had a friend who was an identical twin (I never met or saw his brother) who told me that when he was away from his brother he felt like he was missing something. I have a hunch that we nontwins feel like that all the time, but we just don't know it...

zelda1 said...

One of my early childhood friends was an identical twin. While she and I were nearly attached at the hip, her sister and I were not as close. Her sister did have a close friend and that friend and my friend, the other twin, were not even on speaking terms. I think it may have been the jealousy between twins and twin's friends. If that makes sense. My friend was killed in a car crash years ago and her twin sister is raising her children. I see her and we hug and miss her sister. It's funny, identical in looks and every single thing but still different in mind.

Arbitrista (formerly Publius) said...

There's a creepy number of twins running around these days. My high school had 7 pairs in my senior class. 7!

Marni said...

My friend's son came home after the first day of school and said he had two boy clones in his class...

Isn't it funny how times have changed? He didn't know the word "twin" and yet he knew they were "clones"?

Scrivener said...

Chip, I think you're exactly correct. I know I've seen the idea elsewhere, but where it sticks for me is from the novel by John Barth, The Tidewater Tales, which keeps circling around the claim that we are all twins at an early stage in utero but only one of us makes it most of the time and that we spend the rest of our lives feeling that loss in the background.

YourFireAnt said...

Well, don't be too sure that you are not a twin yourself. Exactly how much do you remember from your earliest years anyway? And was all of what your mother and father [& aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins....] told you over the years factual? Did you never catch them looking at each other in a meaningful way, gleam in his eye, flapping eyelashes in hers? What about all those odd whisperings at night in their room? And the nights they just plain went out [few as they might've been] and left you with a BABYSITTER? When you went to school each morning, do you know what they did during all that time? Maybe went to visit your twin? Maybe brought your twin home and let her play with your things? Maybe even took your twin to the movies or to the zoo. Maybe you became a teacher because of that mysterious twin. Those eyes in the back of your head....maybe they're you twin who has slipped into your skin with you, and gets your back, peering out to see the lay of the land, warning you, helping you. Maybe when you can't find your damn carkeys in the morning, it's because your twin sneaked in during the night and MOVED THEM. Maybe . . .

Well, you probably know the rest.

Jane Dark said...

I had a student last winter who was part of a set of triplets. He said that his brothers went to different schools, though, so theoretically they weren't around to play tricks on me.

turtlebella said...

My mom dated an identical twin for awhile (and almost married one of them). They used to switch on her all the time and she could only tell when she kissed him. Most annoying, I think!

I was laughing that your first thought involved aliens. I mean, aliens! Gotta love it!

OneTiredEma said...

When I was editing for a publisher, my two writers were each half of a set of identical twins. I think they were unusually close (for coworkers) as a result.

I always wanted a twin...

Jody said...

You gave Linda (and Laura) a gift that day, you know.

There's pretty strong research outlining some of the insecurities and subconscious problems of having a doppelganger whom no one -- not even (especially!) one's parents -- can differentiate from one's self. I know it's fun to think about, and lots of monozygotic twins claim to enjoy playing those sorts of games, but people have a genuine desire to be known for who they are, in their uniqueness. Oftentimes, in adulthood, all sorts of issues arise for MZ twins whose family and friends never learned to know them/see them as separate and unique individuals. (This isn't to say that MZ twins have blighted adulthoods -- on the contrary, no research suggests that. It's just that MZ twins often look back on their youthful success in fooling people in a different light as they grow up.)

My girls are di-zygotic multiples (as is, obviously, their brother) and I'm grateful. Even with pretty different facial features, hair length, and color, they had preschool friends who didn't learn which was which all year. It was one of the most important reasons why we separated them for kindergarten. Everyone deserves to be known for herself.

Soprano671 said...

I'm a single mother of 11-year-old identical twin boys. They have tried (unsuccessfully) to confuse me more than once. I told them that mothers know EVERYTHING and that seems to work ... for now. ;)

jackie said...

My twins are fraternal girl twins, and do not look identical, but do look closely enough alike that we often have to tell people how to keep them apart. It's a big debate in twins/multiples-land, whether to separate your set, and we haven't quite figured out yet what to do about it.

Anonymous said...

The tall lanky twins were not all that tall, but they looked alike enough to take tests for each other and to share a part time job after school. I dated BOTH of them (they must have liked my red hair),as did a lot of girls in the school.Not both at the same time , but it caused lots of drama in the 9th grade as romances frequently only lasted a couple of weeks .I could tell them apart easily except at a distance. It further confused things that they shared clothes.

ccw said...

I love that your immediate thoughts led you to a conclusion so far from the truth.

I went to school with a set of twins named Claudette and Paulette. They were pretty easy to tell apart, but everyone still referred to them as one unit: The Ette's.

kathy a said...

my next-door neighbors growing up were fraternal twins. i think they pulled a few stunts in their day, passing as each other, even though they had different looks and temperments. you pay close attention, jo(e), so that trick would never work on you.

a colleague and i were known as "the kathies" for a few years...
and much earlier in my career, we had laughs aplenty around the office, because clients frequently mistook any woman as their own "lady lawyer." that was understandable enough when i was mistaken for another short lawyer, but pretty damned funny when i was called by the name of a woman who was tall, skinny, elegant -- all the things i wasn't.

Soprano671 said...

Throughout elementary school, my identical twin boys were constantly called 'twin' (or anything other than their given names). It didn't bother them too much but by the end of 5th grade, they wanted to be known as individuals, not twins. They are now attending different middle schools that focus on their individual gifts and talents. They are so happy to see each other in the afternoons and enjoy comparing homework and other school stories. And they each brag about having a twin brother.

Rana said...

a colleague and i were known as "the kathies" for a few years... and much earlier in my career, we had laughs aplenty around the office, because clients frequently mistook any woman as their own "lady lawyer." that was understandable enough when i was mistaken for another short lawyer, but pretty damned funny when i was called by the name of a woman who was tall, skinny, elegant -- all the things i wasn't.

This makes me laugh and along with jo(e)'s post reminds me of this one student a friend of mine had. He was TA-ing for a large lecture class (with smaller seminars led by the TAs) and this student came up after a quiz wanting to talk to his TA, but was unable to tell which one was his -- even though all the TAs were present, and my friend was the only man.

Of course, on the flip side, there was the class where there were two very similar guys, a Brian and a Michael, who always sat together and dressed the same and whatnot. It wasn't until one day when only one showed up that I realized I'd been thinking of them as a single entity - BrianMichael - and had never learned to recognize them as individuals. Embarassing, that.

Gannet Girl said...

When my boys were born, I thought they looked just alike and insisted upon blood tests to determine whether they were identical. Once I emerged from my post-delivery fog, it was obvious that they looked not remotely alike. How nice of everyone to humor me. They have several friends who are twins, but only one identical set that I know of.

Marie said...

I taught THREE, yes THREE sets of identical twins last year. Thank goodness all of them were split (i.e. not in the same class) although some of the twins (who weren't each other's twins) were in the same class. Okay, wait, I'm lost. Anyway, I couldn't tell them apart in the halls, only in class. So Jo(e), you really did give Linda a great gift!!

Lilian said...

I love this post, but I hope I never have to teach identical twins because I get mixed up with students who don't even look that much alike, I think I'd totally look like a full with twin students in the same class.

My best friends are twins and they always hated when people treated them like one person, that's why I loved Jody's comment.

I didn't have time to read all the others, but I liked Chip's and Scrivener's comments a lot too - VERY interesting idea :)

Anonymous said...

Im 12 years old boy and I'm a Identical twin. NO ONE can tell us apart. The only ones who gets it right half of the time is my Familey. We wear the same clothes all of the time. But somtimes I wear red and he wears blue. And if I switch shirts with him then even my mom will think I'm him for a whole conversation. We are home schooled so we cant trick our teachers.But we go to speech (alot of twins have a speech problem) at school so we can trick them if we want to. When we grow up we each want to have 3 sets of identical twins. (boy/boy,girl/girl,boy/girl.) We both want to own a cake decorating shop togather.

B&C
P.S. We have won 12 medals and 1 Trophy for being so alike.

Anonymous said...

O Ya we also had a Languge of R own when we were Little like 3