Christmas Thomas sported a matching blue car. Since the parade begins at dusk, we strung colored, battery-powered LED lights to make it stand out.
As we were lined up and getting ready to start, a weird thing happened. Two months later, I'm still shaking my head over it. The only way that I can make sense of it is to call it mistaken identity, pretty common among twins. Ironically, the key players in the mixup were NOT twins.
When we arrived at our line-up site the road was already barricaded. I hopped out of the car to signal to the coordinators and ask them where to drive in so we could drop off our float. I approached an older woman in a long, red fur dress and hat with a coordinator's nametag.
"NO MORE CARS CAN COME IN HERE TO DROP OFF CHILDREN. THE CHILDREN NEED TO BE LET THROUGH ON FOOT. IF YOU HAVE CHILDREN JOINING YOUR PARTY, PLEASE LET THEM KNOW THAT!" she said, red-faced and louder than needed for me to hear her from two feet away. I repeated my question, saying that we had gear to unload and she agreed to let us through.
I looked back for Craig, and the minivan was gone. He had seen that the parade coordinators were under a lot of stress. He thought it better to just unload elsewhere. We parked and assembled the float a block away.
It was a pretty chaotic scene when we found our place in line. Hundreds of people needed to be separated into eighty groups. All had to be ready to move when the time came. Several floats also had children walking, playing in bands, or doing gymnastics in the street.
From twenty feet away I saw the woman in the red fur dress running towards me, carrying a clipboard and looking pretty steamed.
"YOU!" she yelled, red-faced, shaking a finger at me. "I thought I told you to move your car! Now you're blocking the parade route and nobody can get out! MOVE YOUR CAR IMMEDIATELY OR YOU'RE GOING TO BE OUT OF THE PARADE!"
I'm a veteran teacher. I have found that the best way to deal with people so angry that they're unreasonable is to be calm and excessively polite. "I don't know what you are talking about. Our car is parked two blocks away from here."
"You! You! Stop saying that! You know exactly what I am talking about! Don't you tell me you don't know! You're going to hold everybody up! MOVE! YOUR! CAR!"
Devon stopped watching the Vero Cheerleaders and was sitting quietly beside me.
Carrie and Melina busied themselves with their shoes and seemed oblivious to the drama unfolding around them.
"That is NOT my car. My car is not here. I'd be happy to help you find the owners of these cars if you need them moved, but you really shouldn't be speaking this rudely to a total stranger!"
She stormed off, glaring at us from a block away while the cars were moved.
Craig looks tense in this picture. Devon perked back up after some attention from Mommy and Daddy, but how would you feel if you were two years old and you saw Mrs. Claus chewing out your parents....
The rest of the parade went very smoothly. Fifteen thousand people turned out to watch. Devon waved at every single one. The girls amused themselves by grabbing at the LED string and placing different colored bulbs in their mouths, watching each others' cheeks glow in festive colors. After we reached the end near Jaycees Beach, the rest of the floats streamed past while we watched from the curb. Devon enjoyed seeing the Piper jet mounted on a big rig and pretty much anything with lights.
The next morning, the girls slept in and Devon and I conversed as we ate our oaties. I've waited for him to be old enough to talk to me and express what he is thinking and feeling.
"We went in the parade yesterday!" I said.
"Devon and the girlies rode in Thomas again!"
"YEAH!" Devon's eyes got big and serious as he thought for a long moment. "The man was talking to the parade. He was yelling. He was sad. He was crying."
Devon doesn't understand men and women. He says 'man' for both. I understood this comment to be him processing what happened the night before.
"Devon, the lady last night was very angry. She thought Mommy was being mean. She misunderstood," I said.
"Yeah," he replied, thoughtful.
"Sometimes people aren't very happy. They get hurt by things that happen, and they don't get better. They get an ouchie in their hearts that won't go away, and it makes them want to hurt other people. Jesus wants us to love these people even when they aren't very nice, but it's hard." Satisfied, Devon went back to his sippy.
Two weeks later, we went to see the lights and trains at McKee Gardens. The trains were a big hit. Not so much Santa this time, although Devon hadn't been upset by him before.
I've wondered why she was so mad, and I have a guess. My friend Michelle was also yelled at over moving her car. Michelle and I look nothing alike. Different hair color, eye color, and build. I have three children, and she has two. However, we do have one striking similarity. Her identical girls were born only two weeks before mine, and to strangers the four of them look similar enough to be quadruplets. Her twins are my twins' twins, if that makes sense.
Mrs. Claus got us mixed up. She spoke to one woman with two little girls, and then saw another one with two girls and elaborated on the previous conversation. By then she remembered speaking to me in the street, and she started to get frustrated as she doubled back and forth between us, lecturing us and getting angrier and angrier as we got more and more confused.
Oops. The whole thing was probably a case of mistaken identity. I'd think it's pretty unusual for one SET of twins to be mistaken for another set, although twins are often mistaken for each other. The plot of an entire Shakespeare play rests on the confusion created when twins are separated by shipwreck and then mistaken for each other when they show up in the same coastal town (Twelfth Night).
I'm an adult and I've handled thousands of tense confrontations with rude people, developing a rhinoceros hide that can shake off a verbal skirmish and go back to whatever I was doing. I'm thankful for it, because it helps me remember to be there for my kids at all times, not just when I'm calm and having a good day.
I had several sets of twins in class for the eight years I taught, and I remember it causing some confusion. One year we teachers discovered that Bronson and Brandon would occasionally decide that one was more prepared in a particular subject. They would change places in class so the twin who studied the most could take both tests. This was a pretty good gig until Bronson got a detention in Brandon's seventh period science and confessed. Bronson was currently posing for him in math class. He asked to serve his detention himself. One wonders why he didn't just let his brother get the detention and then pose as his brother to serve it.
The answer: Mom. One person couldn't be fooled by their shenanigans. She would get mad at the wrong twin for getting the detention, and if she picked up his brother from school after serving it, she would know the difference.
I don't want my girls to use their easily interchangeable identities to get away with things. I also hope they grow up without too many adults in authority around them who see childish irresponsibility as an excuse for meanness. My girls could get caught in many situations where they are mistaken for each other and expected to know things they don't. They could be recipients of some very undeserved rudeness over the years.
I really don't like it when people are mean to my kids. Last week I took advantage of family in town and took Carrie to Sam's Club with me. We took advantage of the Mommy Date time by walking hand-in-hand through the parking lot together. Carrie smiled and waved "Hi!" at several charmed onlookers. We were thoroughly enjoying ourselves until halfway through the crosswalk in front of the store, when someone got tired of our slower progress and honked at me to hurry up.
SUV driver, meet Momma Bear.
I stopped and whirled around to face him. With one arm I lifted Carrie up until she was facing him across my chest and we both stared him down. With my other arm I lifted her arm and waved it slowly at him, a cool look of disdain on my face.
A few seconds later I put her down and we resumed our slow progress out of his way. The poor man really wasn't that bad. He was probably in a hurry, and might not have seen the eighteen-month-old clinging tightly to my fingers. Even so, my heart rate speeds up a little just thinking about him.
The hard part is, I can't allow anger to get the best of me. Acting out and ruining someone's day won't help me feel better.
I'm just going to have to pray that God can heal the ouchies in my heart.
Just like he will for Devon, Carrie, and Melina.