"They have the same face," the woman said, looking back and forth between Toddler and Baby. "The very same face." I don't know this person. She was one of the many grownups at the birthday party we attended this morning in Riverside Park. But when she said this, Husband and I looked at each other and erupted in laughter. We laughed because this is the third time in four days that a stranger has uttered these very words.
The same face.
The first (and second) time was at Barnes & Noble. Baby was snug in the Bug and Toddler was perched on her uber-cool skateboard attachment deal and I, their graceful gazelle of a mother, kept knocking over book displays as I turned corners. We got into a bit of a traffic jam around the Parenting Section where we ran into another pair of moms with their strollers. The first mom studied my girls, giggled, pinned me with an incredulous look and said, "They have the exact same face. Amazing!" And this wasn't the end of it. She turned to her friend behind her and said, "Linda, check out these kids. They have the same face." So, I waited there for dear Linda to turn the corner and study my progeny. Sure enough, we had a consensus! "The same face!" Linda crooned, snaking past me.
Later that night, I told Husband about this rather bland anecdote from my day and he nearly fell off the couch laughing. "What?" I asked. "What's so funny?" When he regained his composure, he explained himself. "It's one thing to say they look like each other, but it's odd, and funny, to say they have the same face." I smiled and nodded in agreement. It is a strange thing to say. But then Husband and I looked at our girls. They were playing together on that foam mat thing that takes up a hefty footprint of our once-serene living room. They passed toys back and forth and muttered their own language. And even though they were facing each other and we could only glimpse their profiles, we could see it. The same big eyes and long lashes, the same softly sloped button nose, the same deliciously chubby cheeks, the same little bow lips, jabbering away.
The same face. And, silently, without discussion, it seems we came to the same conclusion at the very same time because we both laughed. And at the sound of this laughter, our girls turned in unison and looked at us. And smiled. The very same smile.
And in that instant, I felt a tidal wave of wonder. Wonder at the fact that these two creatures were ours and each other's. Wonder at the sublime sturdiness of genes. Wonder at the fact in three short years, we had gone from bar-hopping to baby-rearing. Wonder at the fact that time will pass and personalities will diverge, but that these two girls will always be sisters.
And even as I was buffeted by this Hallmarkian and sappy swell, the differences in their sweet faces became plain. That Baby's eyes are farther set and her chin, more defined. That Toddler's lips are, for now, a bit plumper. And these differences were at once comforting and curious. My girls do not have the same face. Each has her own beautiful face. But then I looked away and back again and suddenly, they were mirror images of each other again. And this sameness was comforting and curious.
And it struck me: this is how we parents spend our fleeting moments and days and years. We spend them observing the creatures we've created, noting to ourselves, and to each other, instances and images of sameness and difference. We compare.
In one moment, my girls are twins. And in the next, they couldn't be more different. I love this.
And I wish I could offer some photographic evidence of this same face phenomenon. Because I think you would agree. I think in some pictures, you would see what those three women this week saw - the very same face on two different creatures, one little, one big, one with a head full of fuzz, one with a head full of ringlets. And I think this would make you chortle with delight too. But in other pictures, you would see the differences, subtle and stark, that make each girl utterly unique.
But, for now, you will have to settle for the picture of the girls above. Together, they stand. Matching sisterly stances. Side by side, they peer out a window at the glorious green, at the sunshine of a new day, at the world they will one day enter.