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By Linnaea C.
age: 17

The two brothers wrestle on the living room floor, a blur of reddish blond hair and pale slender limbs. Their shrill cries and childish laughter fill the air with voices so identical it’s impossible to tell which voice comes from which small body. Sam and Mitchell, born only eighteen months apart, might pass for twins if they were the same height. Their similar appearance has fooled many babysitters into believing that they are inherently the same, but the two boys’ personalities couldn’t be more different.

To Sam life is an exciting challenge. As the older brother he constantly seeks out new adventures, sets new limits, and tests the rules. Always active, he takes great pride and satisfaction in running faster, playing harder, and climbing higher than the other children. But just as many times as his competitive streak and boisterous nature have gotten him into trouble, his bright smile and chattering voice have gotten him out. An irresistibly lisped “I’m sorry” always seems to earn him forgiveness. His blue eyes take in everything, and just as quickly his pink mouth explains these visions to me. Attending a Spanish immersion school, he prides himself in the ability to point and rattle off “gato”, “silla”, and “arbol” whenever a cat, chair, or tree is in sight, explaining the words’ meanings with childish condescendence.

Mitchell never tries to compete with his older brother. Content to focus on a toy for an hour, he absorbs minute details and spatial relationships, storing them away inside his head. While Sam races to be first, Mitchell draws detailed pictures and builds extravagant Lego structures. As he stacks and reorganizes the tiny blocks, there is something of an architect’s precision behind his motions. Instead of chattering away, he quietly takes my hand and shyly guides me with wide brown eyes full of purpose towards his latest building. Before both boys could talk, their parents taught them infant sign language, and when he is tired Mitchell slips back into the habit of asking for a drink of water with his hands.

Surprisingly, three-year-old Mitchell is the taller brother. His sturdy body conveys the stableness of his personality, all slow determined motions. Sam’s wiry frame, on the other hand, is always slightly crouched and ready to spring into action. But when I finally get them seated side by side at the kitchen table, the shape of their faces, the red tinge of their hair, and the tiny dimples at the corner of their mouths are mirror images.

The wrestling match draws to an end and two sleepy boys sprawl on the floor. When their teeth are brushed and their pajamas donned, they curl on the couch with a well-loved copy of Goodnight Moon. Two childish voices join mine with a lilting “goodnight bear, goodnight chair…” Two tired heads droop against the cushions. And two little boys drift off to sleep. As I carry them to the bedroom, heads resting against my shoulder, neither stirs. In their slumber, all the differences of personality fade away until all that’s left are two sweet boys who look and sound very much alike.

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