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.