Seeing Double

Fairfield County
Hannah Groah


There must be something in the water at Tallmadge Elementary School, or at least that is what people always tell Sabrina Adams, whose identical twin sons are in the second grade at the school. But Sabrina’s twins are not alone. Tallmadge Elementary is home to multiple multiples. 

Nestled in the outskirts of Lancaster, Tallmadge Elementary’s halls spring to life in modern palettes of student education. Shiny posters encourage students to be honest and to have character, and cut out paper hands flank a hand-drawn world. Tallmadge Elementary is, by all appearances, a fairly average school. However, twenty students attending the school defy the law of averages.

There are ten sets of twins, seven of which are identical, who roam the halls Mondays through Fridays. In a school the size of Tallmadge Elementary, the twins account for almost 5 percent of the total student population.

When Brian Lawson became principal in January he says he was shocked by the number of twins. Though not a twin himself, he says his younger brother and he looked enough alike growing up to be confused for an identical set. “It was difficult not having your own unique personality that people appreciated,” Brian says. The frustration came from being constantly confused for another human being, a frustration he says “must be infinitely worse” for the twins at his school. 

Sabrina says that her boys, Nicholas and Nathan Raynes, at times find it frustrating to be identical. Sometimes, she says, the boys will cry out, “I don’t want to look like him.” At school they are often called by the other’s name or simply referred to as “the twins.” When girls are involved, the frustration and heartache of being a twin is only exacerbated.  

In kindergarten, Nathan knew he was in love. “I have a girlfriend, and I love her,” Nathan announced to his mother one day.  Nathan’s love was a classmate of his twin brother. “He talked about her all the time,” Sabrina says. That is until one day when Sabrina went to pick up her boys from school and Nathan was in tears. The whole way home Nathan refused to talk about what had happened. Sabrina kept asking until Nathan burst out, “She thought I was Nicholas!” His kindergarten girlfriend had confused the two identical boys. “He was heartbroken,” Sabrina says. 

Barb Summers, a second grade teacher at
Tallmadge Elementary, says such confusion is not
uncommon, even for teachers. She has taught many of the twins in her ten years at Tallmadge Elementary and says each twin has his or her own unique personality, which makes it easier to tell them apart. By the end of the year, she says, “visually it was still hard to tell them apart, but as soon as you start talking to one of them you know which one it is.” 

The Raynes boys find it irritating to be so physically similar, always being within a half-pound in weight or a half-inch in height, and as their
mother says, only their cowlicks and facial moles distinguish one from the other. 

Now Barb has Nicholas in her class while his twin brother Nathan spends his days in the other second grade classroom. The boys are in the same math class, but she says she rarely sees them together. Other students in the second grade class apparently don’t see Nicholas and Nathan together much either, as their classmates often confuse them.

One day, Barb recalls, Nicholas was standing in line after recess, ready to go back into school when another student started shouting at him repeatedly, “Hey, hey! You’re in the wrong line.” Barb went to see what all the fuss was about when the boy told her pointedly,  “[Nathan’s] in the wrong line, he’s in my class!” The boy, like many others at the school, had confused the twins. Nicholas was in the right line after all. 

Being born a twin comes with inevitable pitfalls, such as never-ending cases of mistaken identity. But being a twin also comes with the reward of constant companionship. Not to mention the ability to play the old switcheroo prank any time he or she wants.

“I can see it now,” Sabrina says, “playing tricks on their teachers and their girlfriends.” A babysitter has already fallen victim to Nicholas and
Nathan’s tomfoolery. 

Tomfoolery, twins and Tallmadge Elementary. There’s something in the water indeed. 

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