Blossom and Fern are twins. Sometimes this is a deeply comforting fact. Sometimes it is very, very annoying. Whenever something eerie happens -- such as when they say something at the exact same moment -- they are as likely to sigh in exasperation as to marvel. "Twin-twin," they grumble.
Blossom and Fern at age five
When they were little, they went through a phase in which they only wanted to wear the same thing. Since I bought them different outfits (and they wore a lot of hand-me-downs), they sometimes had to improvise. Most memorably, they divided Blossom's red pair of shoes and Fern's green pair of shoes down the middle. They created matching pairs. Down the street they would go: red-foot, green-foot, red-foot, green-foot. Their puddle boots were the same: They each had a frog on one foot and a dinosaur on the other.
Back then, it was fun to be so much alike.
Because the girls attend a wonderful Chinese School, our family met the author Grace Lin when Blossom and Fern were five. The school's children were performing the world-premiere of The Ugly Vegetables as adapted for the stage. It was a terribly rainy Saturday, and we were Grace's escorts. She spent a lot of time in our soggy van.
We never forgot the thrill of having her show the school kids how to draw a giraffe. She read to them, and her applause was the warmest and most supportive in the room when the children were singing or making her book come to life. The thrill stayed with us.
And she remembered a little something too -- or two little someones. She later told us Blossom and Fern had helped inspire an early-reader book she was working on about twins; she was fascinated by how they each ate a cookie but in different ways. This past fall, she came to our Chinese School again -- and this time she brought the galleys of her soon-to-be-published book about twins. She presented the unbound, signed pages as a gift to "the original twins."
Fern and Blossom see the galleys for the first time
Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same!is more than one kind of gift to our twins (and all twins). Blossom and Fern now chafe at being considered the same, and yet it is so hard for them to tease apart in a "showy" way how they are different: They both like the same food, both adore caring for their chickens, both prefer math and science. But somehow perceptive Grace Lin was able to see right through all the similarities; she focused her creative brilliance on their differences. She wrote a whole book about all the ways twins can be different even as they love being always together.
Grace Lin is launching her gorgeous twin book on June 19 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. If you're in New England, it would be a fun day-trip. And if you and a friend dress alike, you'll get a special hand-made prize. Maybe you could mix-and-match your shoes with someone you love. That's very twin-twin.