Just like other siblings who fight and say, “I wish I was an only child,” when I got annoyed with my sister, I would say, “I wish I wasn’t a twin.” Even though Alexis and I are truly fraternal twins, we look amazingly alike and were raised as identical twins. One of our favorite sayings was: “I am the cute one. She’s just my sister.” We were delivered by C-section on April 22nd and are two minutes apart. Lexi was born first and often asked the doctor if a twin could go into distress because she was crushing me.
When we were three months old, we played the baby Jesus in the Christmas program. That year the theme was “The Living Nativity.” Mama says during the rehearsals whenever it was Lexi’s turn to be the baby, she would start bawling. So for the majority of the rehearsals, I was playing the baby. On the day of the program, a bug had bitten me on my eyelid and my eye had swelled shut. The director looked at Lexi and said, “Lexi, this is your day.” Lucky for them, Lexi slept through the whole thing.
I remember Mama telling us about one time when she took us to have our picture taken. We were six months old. The photographer was a woman and when she saw us she said, “Oh, twins, how cute! What are their names?”
“Alexis and Phoebe.”
“How far apart are they?”
“Two minutes apart and their names are Alexis and Phoebe? Why aren’t they in rhyme?”
My parent’s were never too keen on rhyming names. However, when our brother and sister were born, two years apart, my parents named them James and Kimberly, but we called them Jim and Kim. It was unintentional, of course.
Being a twin, fraternal or identical, has its annoying problems. First, you have to share everything. Birthdays were the worst. All our guests would bring us the same present whether it was clothes, toys or whatever. Sometimes the kids would bring one gift for the both of us. Lexi and I never fought over toys since we always had the same things. We both had a Barbie Dream House and the same baby dolls. One year, a girl gave us both Tropical Barbie except Lexi’s had blonde hair and mine had black hair. At Christmastime, we had the same problem with aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents.
Mama also dressed us alike. Whenever we went to parties, she dressed both of us in ruffled pink dresses and put our hair in two ponytails with barrettes that had white bows on them. Everyone said we were so cute. It was so disgusting.
We had the same outfits, but sometimes they were in different colors. One outfit we had was a polk-a-dot shirt and solid matching coo lots. Lexi wanted pink and I wanted orange. Lexi and I did go through a phase where we wanted to dress alike, especially at church. Mama used to make all our dresses and we told her we wanted them alike.
Lexi and I have shared a room for basically our whole life. I remember one time when we got into a big fight and I said I wasn’t going to live in the same room with her. Mama and Daddy helped me move all my stuff up to the attic since there were no spare bedrooms. A couple nights later, Lexi had come up and told me this story how a lunatic was supposedly on the loose.
I said, “Well, my room is further away so he’ll go to your room first.”
“Yeah, well my room if closer to Mama and Daddy.”
“Good, so you’ll wake them up screaming so they can rush up here and check on me.”
Later on that night, I heard footsteps coming up the stairs. I got up and stood behind the door and got ready to tackle who or whatever was going to come through. I saw a shadowy figure and jumped at it. By the time I realized who it was, we were both screaming.
“It’s me! It’s me!” Lexi screamed and pulled the blanket she had wrapped around her away from her face.
“You dork! You were just trying to scare me.”
“Actually, I wasn’t. I ended up scaring myself with that stupid lunatic story.”
“Are you kidding? I haven’t slept for three nights!”
My bed was back in our room by breakfast.
School also had its problems. Usually, they would put us in different classes, but one time there was only one first grade class. The teacher had the worst time trying to tell us apart. Of course, Lexi and I thought we looked nothing alike. Whenever the teacher would call on one of us, she would look at me and say, “Alexis?” and Lexi would answer. Even when we would not wear the same clothes, every day when we walked into class the teacher would ask, “Okay, which one is which?” These were times when I wished we looked more different and would have been raised fraternal.
In fourth grade, there was another girl who was also named Phoebe. I thought that was pretty neat. Never had I met anyone with my same name. I was excited because now I had to put my last initial on all my worksheets. Funny as is it may sound, the teacher had a worse time with two of us having the same name than if Lexi and I had been in the same class. The teacher would look at one of us and just say, “Phoebe?” and who ever she was looking at answered the question. Half the time she had meant to call on the other one. And the thing was this other Phoebe and I didn’t look anything alike. I had blonde hair and blue eyes while the other Phoebe was African-American and had black hair and brown eyes.
When Lexi and I entered junior high and high school, the administration had to take extra measures to make sure we didn’t have any classes together, even though we had most of the same teachers. One of the good things was if there was one subject one of us wasn’t good in or didn’t understand it was a good chance the other did. Lexi was good in math and that helped me out especially when we got to high school. My best subject was history, which Lexi despised with a passion. It also helped when we had to buy a certain book for English class. Since we both had to read the same book, we didn’t see any reason to buy two of them. And we always had a study buddy.
On the upside since Lexi and I looked so much alike, it was possible for us to fool people who didn’t know us very well. We made it a point of not doing it on a regular basis and never at school unless it was an emergency. One time, we had a math midterm. I had math early in the day and had already taken my test, but Lexi had not had time to study. I was supposed to go to English class where we had a substitute, so we would just be silently reading. Lexi was supposed to go to gym class, but caught me in the hallway and practically begged me to trade places with her. That way she could study for the math test during English. She figured since she was already good at math one period should be enough. I was reluctant since I had just been to gym class. In the end, I agreed. As I got ready for gym class a second time, I watched myself put on Lexi’s gym clothes and tie my hair back into a ponytail. That day had been the day we had to get weighed and measured. As I waited in line, I almost wished someone would say, “Phoebe, what you doing here?” No one seemed to notice I was an imposter, even though Lexi is a half an inch taller than me and I am couple pounds heavier. That time it had worked out, but sometimes it didn’t.
I had been doing badly in science class all year and if I didn’t pass this test with at least a C, it would be unlikely I would pass the class. Since Lexi was good in math, she was also pretty good at science. So she agreed to take the test for me while I went to her class whatever it was I don’t remember. At the end of science, two of Lexi’s friends happened to pass by the classroom just as she was leaving. They said, “Lexi, what are you doing here?”
The next thing Lexi heard was the teacher saying, “Yes, Alexis, what are you doing here?”
We both got detention and Mama was called and we weren’t allowed to have friends over for a week. I had to retake the test and passed by the skin of my teeth.
One year, I was doing so poorly in math, Mama decided to get me a tutor. The tutor was an eighth grade boy named Tanner and he was surprisingly good looking for a math geek. He had wavy dark brown hair, hazel eyes and Lexi had a huge crush on him. She always went through the living room to get a soda at least two or three times while Tanner was there. One time, I mentioned he had said something about her and Lexi was like, “Oh, so he noticed me.”
“Yeah, he said you must have a bladder the size of Lake Michigan with all the soda you were drinking.”
Another time, she asked me to trade places with her so she could spend some time with him. Fortunately for her, I wanted to go to my friend’s house and play softball. The last thing I wanted to do was work on math. So I said yes. However, the one major difference between us was Lexi was definitely a girlie girl and I was more of a tomboy. Lexi would usually wear nice blouses or sweaters with a skirt or a pair of slacks. She rarely wore jeans and I wore jeans religiously. She borrowed a pair of my ratty jeans and wore a short-sleeved white t-shirt with a blue pull over sweater and my baseball cap. Then she dressed me up like a freaking porcelain doll. She had twisted my hair up and put in one of those alligator clips. She also applied some blush and lip-gloss and had me wear one of her more frilly outfits.
I said, “Do you have to dress me like this?”
“If Valerie is going to think you’re me, then I have to make you look extra pretty. Besides I wouldn’t complain. Look what your hat is doing to my hair!”
“If anyone asks, Valerie wanted to do her hair like one of the Spice Girls,” I said.
“Which one?” Lexi asked slyly.
“I think you mean Sportie.”
“Yeah, right. I always get those two mixed up.”
When I came home, Tanner was still there. “My” tutoring session had run over. Lexi was sitting on the couch making goo goo eyes at him and had this sappy grin on her face. Since Tanner’s back was to me, I mouthed to Lexi, “What is he still doing here?” She just shrugged her shoulders. Then I heard the car pull into the driveway. Mama had come home early. Kim had a dentist appointment that afternoon and they were supposed to be gone all day. Lexi and I had hoped Tanner would be gone and we would have switched back before anyone knew. I bolted up the stairs.
“Well, Phoebe,” Tanner was saying, “you did really well and your hand writing has even improved.”
When Mama got ready to pay Tanner, she looked at Lexi and folded her arms and said, “Tanner, I think you have been had.”
“Phoebe, I think you had better get down here,” Lexi called.
“I thought I already was down there.”
“Mama wants you.”
I told Mama it was all Lexi’s idea to switch, but Mama said that was no excuse and I was just in as much trouble as Lexi was for going along with it. I should have known better.
As time went on Lexi and I did developed our own separate identities. Lexi wanted her clothes to be more grown up and I wanted mine to be cooler. I got a white hooded sweatshirt with a moon and stars on the front and jeans with zippers on the legs. Lexi found that looking more grown up was a lot more expensive then she had planned. She did end up with a matching light lavender sweater and shell with a pearl necklace attached and a black pleated skirt that came just above her knees, as well as shoes that had a small heel. Both of our hair came to the middle of our backs. I got mine cut to shoulder length and added some caramel highlights, while Lexi left hers long and natural dark blonde. Lexi was part of the math league and I tried out for the volleyball team.
Right away people began to notice. We became known as Phoebe and Alexis instead of The Oster Twins.
We still live within a block or two from each other and talk on the phone daily. A year so later, I got a call from Lexi.
“You’ll never guess what I found out,” she said one day.
“You’re having twins.”
“How did you know?”
“This is me you’re talking to. I know these things. After all, who knows you better than a twin?”