Monday, October 18, 2010

A Twin's Life

Age 5

Before the advent of fertility drugs and treatments, twins – especially identical twins – were a rare occurrence. As a twin, we were often asked, “What is it like to be a twin?” Frank had the best answer: “I don’t know what it’s like not to be one.” So here are a few anecdotes from a twin’s life (psychological insights not included).

For some perspective, we were the only identical twins in our grammar school and junior high. Twins were more common in high school, but then there were 1,200 students in our graduating class. Our parents wisely did not dress us alike, although our mother made matters easier by purchasing the same style but in different colors. We each had distinguishing marks: mine, scar on my forehead, from dropping a piggy bank while lying in a crib; Frank, a mole on an earlobe.

Even with superficial differentiations, we were as identical as can be. We did not, however, go out of our way to stage twin “stunts.” They happened on their own. Shortly after moving to the suburbs, we 6-year-olds were chasing each other through the kitchen, out the attached garage, around the back of the house and into the kitchen again. A workman doing renovation work said to my mother, “Lady, I’ve never seen a kid run so fast.” A substitute teacher kicked me out my 6th grade class five minutes before the end of a school day and told me to wait in the hall.  Instead, I walked home. The sub came out into the hall, saw I’d left and went into the other classroom to inform the teacher. As she explained her dilemma, she spotted Frank and said, “There he is!” The class, I’m told, burst out laughing.

A favorite event occurred during our freshman year in college. After Thanksgiving weekend in New York, we headed back to school in Pennsylvania and Connecticut via buses from the Port Authority terminal. While walking to the gate, a guy stopped me and said, “Where are you going? The bus leaves from Gate 39!” Sensing the situation right away, I replied, “Listen, buddy, I don’t care what you say. I’m catching a bus to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, from Gate 21.” and strode past him. I wish I could have seen the look on his face when he reached Gate 39. I’ve bumped into Frank’s college classmates at O’Hare (said he knew it was me) and in front of “The Night Watch” in the Rijksmuseum (he didn’t)  He had one of mine stare at him on a CTA bus before introducing himself.

Perhaps the greatest forgotten promotion by Bill Veeck involved twins. In honor of the first Comiskey Park visit of the Minnesota Twins – the team had moved from Washington, where they were the Senators, to Minneapolis-St. Paul – the White Sox designated May 15, 1961, as “Twins Night.” All twins were allowed in free  Despite this being a school night, my parents took us and two friends to the game  Entry was through a single gate in the left-field grandstand.  We arrived there only to find the gate hadn’t opened. This created an amazing spectacle – a veritable Noah’s Ark. There were two of everything: young ones, old ones, identical ones, fraternal ones, short ones, tall ones, fat ones, thin ones and even two men in full baseball uniforms (in the days when adults didn’t wear a jersey, much less an entire uniform). Unfortunately, minicams hadn’t been invented, and periodic Internet searches have found no record of this promotion. Paid attendance was only 9,123; I don’t know how many twins got in free.

Because the years have been relatively good to both of us, we still have these moments. After rising from our seats on the subway as it reached the Sox-35th station for the first game of 2005 World Series, a couple behind us said, “You’re twins, aren’t you?” Even last year, as the family waited for the valet to bring up the car after dining out, one of my basketball-playing colleagues walked by and started talking to Frank. I turned around and said, “Don, let me introduce you to my brother.”

I’m worried about one thing: the first funeral. There might be an attendee who doesn’t know about us and thus will think he or she is witnessing a resurrection.

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