Yesterday, Twin A and Twin B found out they both placed in their school’s science fair. This was big news in our house, because as anyone whose kids have participated in a science fair knows, science fair takes over your whole life. Grandparents, aunts and uncles anxiously awaited the results along with us, probably because they were all sick of hearing us talk about it.
Science fair has always been a big part of our lives since the girls were in second grade. I guess this is what happens when there’s a rocket scientist in the house. And it ain’t me. The science gene certainly didn’t come from my pool—I like biology, but that’s it, and only sort of. But the twins get into it, and have actually won and gone on to compete in the district science fair three years in a row, twice even winning gold medals.
Last year was the first time they didn’t place at all for their project on paper-towel absorbency, which was hard to believe after watching them meticulously soak and weigh a Costco pack of paper towels over the course of an entire weekend. Really, an entire weekend. And really, an entire Costco pack.
To be fair, Twin A was preoccupied with studying for the regional spelling bee, which happened to be on the same day as the science fair, so it was a pretty stressful week for all, to say the least.
They were totally fine with their first-time science fair loss, but Mr. BK, well, that was a different story. He felt that he let them down. I found myself consoling him with platitudes like, ”It’s OK, they can’t win every time; you did the best you could and that’s what matters.” (Of course, secretly thinking, “Well maybe if you guys had listened to one of my ideas,” but whatever.) Meanwhile, the girls were over it about 30 seconds after seeing their ribbon-free board.
In middle school, the rules of the science fair change: no group projects (they had always shared their project), and best of all (for us!), it had to be done entirely at school. Parent involvement was limited to financing the projects, providing the necessary supplies, and allowing for Internet time. We were even given specific guidelines on what was and was not “appropriate” to discuss at home.
Well, OK, we get the point. Parents, pony up the cash and mind your own beeswax.
So that’s what we did. And they won. Twin A in first place, Twin B in fourth. We couldn’t be prouder of them. But…
Along with the coolness of having and being twins—especially same-gender twins—comes a little thing called competition. I’ve always said a little competition is good, and it has proved to be so for them. But…
You know how Jan Brady was always feeling in the shadow of the ever-popular, ever-successful older sister Marcia? (Note: You’ll find many of my posts reference The Brady Bunch. The Bradys are and always have been a huge part of our daily lives. The Brady Bunch theme song is my ringtone, and “Sunshine Day” is my sister’s special ringtone when she calls me.) So anyway, it’s not that Twin B is the underdog; not at all. Both girls have consistently gotten the exact same grades on their report cards since kindergarten, both tested into the gifted program in elementary school, and both are equally outgoing and ambitious. But somehow, some way, Twin A always seems to squeak ahead in every competition and contest, while Twin B always finds herself in third place, no matter what, whether it’s a Halloween costume contest (twice), the spelling bee (three times) and a storytelling contest at Barnes & Noble. It really is uncanny.
Jan, I mean Twin B, handles all this surprisingly well, although last year in exasperation, she did tell me, “I’m beginning to really dislike the number three.” (Although she didn’t say it in the breathy, whiny tone that Jan would.)
A few days after she said that, the jerseys for her basketball team were handed out, and you can guess what number she got. Yep, three. Two seasons in a row. Luckily, Marcia, I mean Twin A, does not like basketball. She’s too busy winning her blue ribbons in gymnastics. (Remember all those trophies on Marcia’s dresser?)
So it should be understandable why, for days after the projects were judged, there was much anticipation between them over not only if they’d place, but who would place where if they did. Both really just wanted to place, because that would mean they would be exempt from the major research project in the spring. That was a huge incentive for them.
They discussed at length every scenario, and both agreed that it would be best if neither of them placed at all than if one did and one didn’t. Talk of places never even came up. Honestly, I wasn’t even sure if they’d place at all, as we had seen a lot of awesome projects on the day parents were invited to the fair.
So yesterday when I picked them up from school, Twin B got in the car with the biggest smile on her face and blurted out, ”I don’t have to do the research project next semester!”
“Did you place?” I nearly screamed.
“I got fourth place!” she said, just as excited as I was.
There, in the pickup line, I got a huge lump in my throat and tried not to cry. I would’ve turned around to hug her, but I didn’t want to crash into the car in front of me. After much congratulations, I said, “Hey! You didn’t get third place!”
“I know! I’m so happy!” she exclaimed.
And then came the inevitable out of my mouth, and with a slight wince: “How did A do?”
“Better, but I think she’d want to tell you.” Uh-oh, I admit I thought.
Just then, I saw Twin A come bounding toward the car, big smile on her face.
“I got first place!” she shouted, barely closing the door behind her.
The lump in my throat came back, but this time, I had to try not laugh, not cry.
“Are you serious?” was all I could muster. Of course, I was thrilled for her and congratulated her, but I was a little surprised since both BK and I said many times over the past few weeks that we thought B’s project was more complicated and thought she put a bit more effort into it. Not that A didn’t deserve it, I was just surprised. Happy, but surprised.
I gave them my phone so they could share the news with their father, whom I knew would have the exact same reaction as I did. Twin B broke her news first, then handed the phone over to A so that she could tell hers. A glance in the rear-view mirror assured me that she really was OK with it. No fighting back tears, just a genuine shiny smile. Phew!
And then as soon as we got home, and this is going to sound really bad unless you understand the dynamics of our unique situation, I texted my sisters and sister-in-law the following: “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia. That’s all I’m saying. Call later for details.”
Immediately, I got a text back from one of my sisters. All it said was, “NO!”
Next came the text from my sister-in-law: “So I take it A won again?”
This is just the way it is. It’s not that no one is happy for and extremely proud of Twin A, and it’s not to take anything away from her; she certainly deserves every one of her wins. It’s just that, well, “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!”
Later when I got a moment alone with Twin B, I again told her how proud of her I was, and asked if it bothered her that her sister placed first.
“Not at all,” she said. “I’m just glad I placed. I would’ve been happy with an Honorable Mention, just as long as I didn’t have to that research project next semester.” And I believed her, especially when I heard them sharing the news over the phone throughout the evening with family members. She was just as excited saying “fourth place” as she would’ve been saying “first.” In fact, my mom thought she did say “first” and had to be corrected. (Yikes.)
Later, Twin A told me that when the winners were announced over the loudspeaker that morning, she didn’t think she heard right. And then her very next thought was that she wanted to hear her sister’s name.
So, yes, they’re competitive, but they’re sweet about it, and they truly do want the best for each other. But it would be nice for Jan to capture a first place sometime.
There’s always that upcoming essay contest…
Wait a minute. I just remembered: Didn’t Marcia win that “Father of the Year” essay contest?
Uh, buoy. Stay tuned…