It's rare that our twins are dressed alike.
Sure, we did it now and then when they were babies.
It was cute, especially for photos.
But it confused us and others and, as soon as they were able to grunt in the direction of a particular piece of clothing, Matthew and Jonathan made their own preferences clear. At this point in their lives, they find the idea of dressing alike generally repulsive.
So it was by mistake that it happened last week.
We were headed out to Target and the mall, intending to Christmas shopping and meet up with a friend for pictures with Santa. Neither twin wanted to wear his jacket. I agreed only if they each grabbed a sweater.
They grabbed precisely the same ones.
Coincidentally, they were both wearing gray sweatpants of slightly different shades.
I didn't think much of it until we entered Target.
Most often, passersby don't even realize Jonathan and Matthew are twins. I always assumed that we had naturally passed the phase where people cared -- when they were babies, sitting side-by-side in their stroller announcing their identical DNA to the world.
Babyhood was tough.
I always had to build in extra time for oglers. I didn't mind much because the twins were too young to understand that they were a side show of sorts. Besides, they made people happy. It was nice to see previously frowning folks stop and smile.
But I should have built it in extra time that day.
It started the moment we walked through the doors.
Two women walking toward us stopped, blocking our way. They stared at the twins, slightly stooped for a better angle, looking them up and down. Then they stood up straight and one women said with a bit of a puzzled look, "Are they twins?"
"Yes," I answered.
"I knew it," said one.
"Me too," said the other, and the two women carried on a conversation about Matthew and Jonathan's likenesses and differences as though none of us was there. I maneuvered the twins around them and kept walking.
Once we grabbed a cart and the twins were walking freely, not holding my hands, I figured we were safe. Certainly, no one would stop us if they were not on display side-by-side and if we looked really busy.
Similar incidents occurred at least 6 more times during our 40-minute shopping excursion.
Some people were polite and brief. Others were a little more intrigued, yet still polite. No one else was rude like those two women. Shoppers just seemed attracted by the twinness, like they couldn't help themselves, and I found that kind of amusing.
When we left Target and arrived at the mall, Jonathan stripped off his sweater.
He was hot.
Matthew kept his on.
We attracted not a single comment or stare during our 90-minute trek through the halls, food court and arcade.(Okay, maybe a stare, but that probably had more to do with the rather "active" behaviors of Matthew and Jonathan and their preschool-aged friend.)
Not even Santa noticed.
At least, not until we were preparing to leave and Jonathan pulled on his sweater.
Their friend was gone by then, so it was just the two boys standing there, waiting for me to get my act together. Santa had risen from his chair and was greeting a children in the common area a few yards away. He looked at Jonathan and Matthew, who caught his stare and galloped over.
Santa gazed at them, and then lifted his eyes to me.
"Are they twins?" he said.
I swear I saw a mischievous twinkle.