As a woman with an identical twin sister, I am well-accustomed to the fact that my sister Anne and I are physically indistinguishable. Fortunately, our personalities have always been very distinct, so I’ve never really had that creepy “I have a clone” feeling.
Now, however, I have a 3-year-old daughter, Abbie, who is a replica of me as a toddler. The similarities are unnerving.
It isn’t just the striking physical similarities — the blue eyes, the honey-blond hair (all right, fine — mine has been courtesy of L’Oreal Preference #H8 for the past 15 years), and, of course, the Unfortunate Harris Nose.
No, Abbie is more than a clone. She is the fulfillment of a dire curse issued 28 years ago by my own mother as I lay screaming in the middle of the grocery store floor, surrounded by a broken bag of flour and in absolute hysterics that nobody understood my need to play in the fluffy white powder:
“Some day, I hope you have a daughter who is just like you!”
The occasion of Abbie’s birth did not result in any lightning bolts or other symbols of a grand prophecy coming into fruition (although that would explain the shooting, excruciating pain). Yet as I watch Abbie’s face crumple in preparation for a temper tantrum at the slightest provocation, I must admit that I deserve this.
Now, allow me to clarify. It’s not that I was a horrible, rude, mean-spirited child. I was simply a little eccentric, and perhaps a bit too precocious for my own good, but I never intended any harm. I like to think of myself as a mild sociopath, but with a heart of gold.
For example, my oldest brother, Jim, often tells a story of standing in the kitchen and watching my mother yell at me for taking a steak knife and hacking several divots out of the edge of the kitchen counter.
As Jim remembers it, he and my other brother Rick watched, morbidly fascinated, as my normally mild-mannered mother worked herself into a frenzy, turning red in the face and practically spitting as she screamed. After a long-winded diatribe, she delivered the classic coup de grace: “…and don’t you EVER do something like that again! DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME???”
Completely unremorseful, I placed my hands on my hips, stuck out my bottom lip, and said, “No!”
At this point, my brothers dissolved into fits of laughter, while my mother desperately pleaded with them to stop encouraging me.
My childhood behavior has had long-lasting consequences. Some families like to read The Night Before Christmas every holiday season. My family prefers to engage in a lively round of “Man, Ami sure was a weird kid” stories. Yes, it just wouldn’t be Christmas without the classics, such as “Ami Lights the Bathroom on Fire,” “Ami Pees Under Heidi’s Bed For No Apparent Reason” and “Ami Takes a Razor Blade To Dad’s Brand New Padded Desk Chair.”
I never felt like anybody really understood me. After all, my mother had five kids, ages six and under, so my seemingly strange actions might have been bids for attention. And perhaps my delight with fire stemmed from a lively scientific curiosity about the addition of heat to organic compounds. Maybe I was worried that raccoons might nest under my sister’s bed, and had heard that toddler urine was an environmentally friendly deterrent.
Now that I have my own little Ami, I must endure the knowing grins of my family every time Abbie misbehaves. She has yet to take a knife to any of my furniture (which is a shame, since distressing is such a hot new design trend), but she certainly got my propensity for throwing fits and my need for attention.
Abbie is a lucky little girl, because I understand her conflicting emotions and her need for approbation. When she had a fit in the Wal-Mart check-out line because I expressed mild displeasure after she sprayed a king-sized bag of M&M’s all over the floor of lanes 12-18, I felt no anger or frustration with her inability to understand that this was unacceptable behavior. My poor, misunderstood baby girl.
I hope she has a daughter just like her some day.