By Joy Houser
This article was originally published May 16, 2017
How do I put into words what it’s like to have never known life without someone who looks exactly like me, and in our youngest days, duplicate each other’s moves? Well, in two words (like twins)…it’s magical! Thinking back to an era of my life that seems to have fast forwarded at warp speed, I’m delighted to realize it was the first of many golden years. The beginning of being golden arrived along with me, to the surprise of our parents, as my identical twin sister Jan. Two peas in a pod – literally. We knew each other long before anyone knew of us.
In our beginning, Mom wrapped us up together in one baby blanket for that cozy comfy feeling of knowing we were not alone…an unbreakable bond we’ve continued to share no matter where our journeys have taken us…SMILE.
We were dressed alike from birth, to our Pleasantview (appropriately named!) Elementary school days, until heading off to Grant Junior High School where we discovered a set of twins who also found their fashion independence. Later, while navigating the halls of East Detroit High School, we became kindred twin spirits with Pam & Pat, Dave & Doug, Marty & Steve, Marie & Mike, and Lynn & Laura….in an era before fertility drugs – it’s safe to say there was something in the water!
As young teenagers, our summers were doubly exciting as Day Camp Counselors with the Macomb YMCA. We eagerly jumped on the bus that rolled out of the parking lot at 8 a.m. sharp and wound through nearby communities picking up cartwheeling campers to spend the day at Kensington State Park in Milford – just enough time for all to sing and sway along the highway with tunes like “In A Cabin By The Woods” and “John Jacob Jingle Heimer Schmidt!” This was our first real “job” that we would’ve gladly done for free. However, earning a $1.00 an hour was an added bonus supplementing our weekend babysitting fee of 50 cents per hour which included cooking dinner, cleaning the house, bathing kids, followed by snacks and getting them all to bed on time.
Sure we ventured off in our own directions for various interests during our teenage years – Jan was a clarinet player in EDHS’ marching band and orchestra, while I took business and art classes. We did have music in common though, along with our sister Carol, thanks to our parent’s “brilliant” idea to hire an accordion teacher for the three of us. Yet another typical sign of the times with the ever popular Lawrence Welk Show. In fact, as an ode to our idols, the Lennon sisters, who sang on his show, we dubbed ourselves “The Lemon Sisters,” performing in relative’s basements and our parent’s parties where dad joined in on harmonica and a great uncle on violin. Sometimes during a Lemon session, Jan and I would get tickled about something, and just looking at each other, caused spontaneous eruptions of uncontrollable laughing, which sent Carol into an eyeball rolling fit – something she eventually learned to live with and accept as an older sister. Although, she wasn’t so forgiving when she’d come home with her boyfriend, and while trying to say good night with a big kiss, we would flick the porch light on and off and off and on until she ran in the house intent on strangling us.
There was this time, too, that one of Jan’s dates must have wondered how he ended up with me sitting in the back seat on their way to a movie. She asked me to go because she was nervous and I really wanted to see that Doris Day and Rock Hudson flick! What a good sport he was, even bought my ticket and a round of popcorn – yes! he really understood the meaning of a “package deal!”
Oh how we loved our local Teen Center – lots of dances and outdoor activities; so, one summer we decided to enter a doubles tennis tournament that we practiced weeks for…eventually accomplishing a really astonishing volley! FINALLY the day came!!! Excitedly pedaling our bikes up there, we watched a couple matches before our turn. Relaxed and confident, running onto the court knowing we had a great chance to make it to the finals. The first serve was a killer – really – I never saw it coming! The ball smashed into my forehead sending me into an orbit of stars and Jan to her knees laughing hysterically. Our opponents, realizing we weren’t going to ever recover, started jumping up and down wildly victorious with their first win. It took some 26 years before we tried again…this time in Cancun to celebrate our 40th birthdays with our husbands and my daughters. At least this time, we had the consolation prize of mega margaritas waiting for us pool side, when on the first volley, Jan hit it over the fence into a couple sitting on their balcony.
The very first time my wombmate and I were truly separated for a long length of time was when Jan headed off to college and I started my first full time job at Aetna Insurance in downtown Detroit. I was so happy for her, but super sad my best friend wouldn’t be a part of my everyday life. What was I suppose to do? She was the only one who truly “got” me and continued to love and like me anyway. Waking up that first morning knowing I wouldn’t see her that day was so hard. I was weak and lost with an emptiness I never felt before. “Oh noooo, so this is what it’s like for non-duplicates….remember – one day at a time, one day at a time.” Part of my coping was getting to Central Michigan University to deliver a care package and check out her life as a co-ed…oh wow, VERY interesting! Sometimes Jan could carpool down state with a friend and eventually brought home a handsome guy who would ultimately become her husband. She even wore my wedding dress and said her “I do’s” in our parent’s backyard, with me, her maid-of-honor by her side, as she was for me at mine.
Through days of endless happiness and sunshine along with weathering stormy skies, we were always at each other’s side; either together or despite hundreds of miles between us. If you’re blessed enough to be a duplicate, then you know what it’s like. Having a soul mate relationship is having a shared life path, a sense of comfort and ease like with no one else, and a genuine liking of each other. Perfection in ϒing & ϒang. Not to fret if you were a single birth, that doesn’t make you weak, it means you’re strong enough to make it on your own. ♥
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