I’ve always had twins. Always. Before they in my arms, they were in my heart. I was a huge fan of the Bobbsey Twins books, featuring two sets of fraternal twins, Freddie and Flossie, Nan and Ned, with all their somewhat tame adventures and most proper lifestyle of the early 1900’s through the 70’s. Somehow I wanted to BE a twin!
When I was nine years old my family moved from the white brick house with a basement to a two-story red brick house on the corner of Gettysburg Road, about a half-mile away. Mom and Dad actually sent me to school from one house in the morning and told me to come home at 3 pm to the other one. What a strange beginning—and ending, of sorts. I had just turned 4 when we moved into the white house; I had acquired a kitten, a dog, and lifelong friends during the 6 years we spent there.
That afternoon I found the new house. I unpacked and arranged my bedroom, then went exploring in the neighborhood. The first thing I noticed was the smelly diesel in the air as the city bus stopped at our corner lot every 15 minutes. The second was a woman’s voice calling out to her children down the street. I wandered in that direction to find two sisters named Karen and Barbara in their back yard, taking down the laundry that was flapping on the clothesline, smelling like sunshine and clean sheets. I started helping, popping the wooden clothespins into the pot-bellied calico bag almost overflowing as it bounced, swinging from the clothesline with a crazy rhythm.
I soon discovered that these two girls fought continuously. They always had to finish chores before they could come out and play with me. The quickest way to get them free to play was to do their chores for them. So I learned to hang up laundry, take down that same laundry when it was dry, wash dishes the old-fashioned way in a metal dishpan by hand in water bubbly from a washcloth full of soap hanging over the faucet. Aggie, their Mom, would reward me with a sweet lemon slice that had soaked in sugar.
Karen and Barbara had a whole arsenal of games they loved, but mostly they loved to play paper dolls. But these were not standard issue. Aggie would request out of date pattern books from Hancock’s. Then the two girls would settle on the glider on the front porch, scissors in hand, searching for different models to be their paper dolls. They sorted stacks of each “girl” into a different white envelope with that character’s name on it.
They offered a pattern book to me so I joined in the fun. Imagine my delight when I discovered that I could fashion my paper dolls into twins! So I found duplicates throughout the pattern book and fashioned a family with 2 sets of twins. You know, I also had the mother of the bunch in maternity clothes. Somehow that tied in with my dream of lots of twins.
It happened that my fourth grade class contained four sets of identical twins: Harold and Darrell, Cindy and Sandy, Janet and Joan, and Don and his brother, whose name I don’t remember. Maybe he was “his other brother Don”.
Now, I had no sisters and all of my brothers were much older than me, so I always felt like an only child. I guess this is why I preferred to dream of being a twin. Of having another person who looked exactly like me–same age, same smile, same eye color, a constant playmate for this almost–only child. I knew of course that God could not grant my wish for a twin sister. So I decided to pray for twin daughters and twin sons. That request didn’t seem too hard for Him to grant.
Yet my first child, born six weeks before I turned 20, was a single boy. He was such a well behaved, compliant baby and such a joy that I often made the joke that I would have to have two ‘really bad’ kids in order to make up for this wonderful baby.
God heard me. He decided to answer that request.
When Jack, my firstborn was 14 months old, I found myself ready to deliver again. Yet this time my tummy was much, much bigger than previously. So much so that I asked Dr. Nasser to reassure me that this was only one big baby. That’s when he decided to x-ray my tummy and give me the results that surprised me. Dr. Nasser said he was positive that he heard two heartbeats, and showed me the x-ray with what he was sure were twins. I was delighted and shocked and so grateful to have my prayer answered in this way. When I told Malcolm, my husband, about the twins he was speechless. For a little while, anyway, till the proud rooster rose to the surface. I proceeded to grow and grow and grow until I thought my tummy would explode. Jack, 14 months old and scampering about the living room, liked to crawl up and perch himself on top of my massive belly. That’s when he would notice the super “outie” where my poor navel stretched, and it became one of his first words. He tried for button as in belly button, but it came out “bubbie.”
Malcolm and I had decided on names for two boys (Seth and Sean) and names for two girls (Heather and Holly or Holly and Ivy). I was on my way to the delivery room (and no, he didn’t go with me, this was the ancient days of 1974 when men were men and left the real work to the women folk and just paced and gave out cigars), we discussed the possibility of one of each gender and decided to pull one name from the girls and one name from the boys names we had chosen. It was only then that I learned that Malcolm had an Aunt Ivy and an Uncle Seth in the family. He smiled when I told him, “Well, if I can choose twins, I can choose to have one of each”. And that’s the way that Seth and Ivy got their names. As for my silly bragging that God had taken note of? They both had severe colic for 3 solid months. Rarely did a bottle of formula go down their throat that it didn’t end up right back up again…I was tempted to purchase a wardrobe of milk-colored shirts so I’d match the upchuck. Yet in spite of the challenges I was walking on air—I had my twins!!
It was two years later I found myself living in North Georgia in a tiny town with a bizarre history called Toccoa, shortly after the movie, “Deliverance” came out. I could write a spooky Lifetime Movie about raising three tiny children alone out in the woods of North Georgia, perched near the lake on Hole-in-the-Wall Road. (My husband went back to Atlanta to work to support all of us, as the tiny town of Toccoa couldn’t come close to his salary).
It wasn’t long before I learned I was expecting again. And it wasn’t long before I begged the doctors there to reassure me that this was only one large baby. Once again they told me that I was expecting twins. This time I was so nervous that instead of going home to tell my husband I went to the local hospital to meet with a friend, Mrs. Stover, the head of hospital volunteers. She was a dear, just hugged me and laughed in delight. She said God wouldn’t give me anything I couldn’t handle, and reassured me that every thing would be fine. So I thanked her, picked up two gallons of maple nut ice cream, and returned home to drop the bomb on Malcolm.
After I revived him–scraped him off the kitchen floor, we rejoiced that God had blessed us once again. And we knew that if He chose to give us five children to raise, he would provide the means to manage it.
So the search for twin names was on again. With the Bi-Centennial that year, Liberty was popular; so were Robert and William, and they were family names as well. Jack, who was now 3 1/2 years old, was an avid fan of several TV Westerns. Clint Walker as Cheyenne was a favorite and so was James Arness who played Sheriff Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke. When the grandparents came for dinner, Jack was positively bursting, anxious to tell us his names for the new babies. He climbed on his chair for effect, held out his arms like a ringmaster and announced, “I wanna name them Maffew, Clint, Clong, and Doodle.”
When we stopped laughing, he explained the Matthew and Clint, but I never did figure out where the other two came from. As it happened, Jennifer Christian and Shannon Stewart made their appearance in May, so we were spared the cowboy names. Well, almost. Shannon’s middle name, ‘Stewart’ was after James Stewart, another famous cowboy and a man we knew we would always be proud to say lent his sense of honor to our little girl.
You know how once in a while you’ll be all by yourself and think you saw a quick movement behind you, or out of the corner of your eye? Yeah, I do, too. It happens to me sometimes. But I’ve decided that I think it’s Clong and Doodle, still chasing dreams out in the garden on Hole-in-the-Wall Road.