On saturday, the grass is still wet with morning dew as the Twinsburg town square fills up with colorfully dressed twins waiting to start the Double Take Parade. Floats line the street and people with megaphones travel through the crowd, directing the flow of events.
It is here that I meet Marlene Wolf and Darlene Mason, 49-year-old twin sisters who have been attending Twins Days for eight years. Every question I ask of Marlene and Darlene is answered in an energetic, overlapping jumble of words. They describe their twinship as a gift and a bond that can’t be broken.
When I ask them what it’s like to be apart, their bright-red cowboy hats bump up and down with groans and giggles. They tell me the longest they have spent apart was seven days during Marlene’s honeymoon. “I can’t believe they didn’t want to take me,” Darlene laughs. “I never did get over that!”
“When I came back, her eyes were almost swollen shut, she’d cried so much,” Marlene remembers.
They are the most twinlike twins I meet this weekend, and that is saying something in this crowd. Their sameness plays right into the stereotype I held before coming here, and watching them speak sets off a physical response in me. I try to imagine my girls as adult women, sitting next to each other at the holiday dinner table, layering their words on top of one another.
Marlene and Darlene know that most people don’t understand their bond. “Sometimes people look at twins and think, ‘Ugh, why are they still dressing alike?’ ” Darlene says. “But why take away a gift that was given to you? It is a special gift. Instead of people thinking we’re crazy, [they should realize that] it is something special.”
The energy and passion behind Marlene and Darlene’s rush of words is beautiful, and the way in which they talk about each other sticks with me long after we leave Twinsburg. “Having a twin is having a soul mate you didn’t fall in love with but were born with,” Marlene says. Thinking of my girls as soul mates makes me smile.
A couple of weeks before our journey to Ohio, I spoke with one of the Twins Days organizers, a mom of twins herself, who told me Twins Days was a chance to celebrate multiple birth. I’ll admit now that her words fell on deaf ears; after all, parenting multiples has left my husband and me with some fairly significant (and fresh) wounds. Three years in, and all I see are two exhausted and stressed parents who are running on fumes. I know my girls are special and our love for them is boundless, but I am sometimes overwhelmed by it all.
The Twins Day Festival takes place each year on the first full weekend of August.
For more information or to register to attend the 2011 event, visit www.twinsday.org.
By the end of our visit, I could see that what I feared for my girls might very well come true. They may speak in stereo. They may never spend more than a week apart. They may, without fail, choose each other over everyone else in the world.
But what I learned is that I’m OK with that. Yes, my girls share a twisted strand of DNA, but they also have strong and divergent personalities. And as they grow, I know they will find strength not only in the places where they assert their independence but also (and maybe more so) in the places where they overlap.
As I scan the crowd, I see a pair of blonde teenage girls in bright pink dresses quickly — and seemingly unknowingly — weave their fingers together as they walk past funnel-cake stands and souvenir tents.
For me, those girls held all the weekend’s lessons in their tightly woven hands: Claire and Olivia have been given the gift of each other, and that is truly magical.