My family used to be seen as a bit odd. My adoptive father was a widower with three small children when he met my single-mother mother and they married and had a baby. I grew up with adoptive brother and sisters and a half sister in a town where there was only one child of a "broken home" in my entire school. It didn't make me feel bad; I valued our unusual set-up.
There were some disadvantages. I don't look like my siblings and that can be surprisingly difficult when trying to work out where you belong. The journey back to Ireland in the summers was always wonderful as the ferry from Holyhead was always filled with people who had the same dark hair, blue eyes and milky skin as I have and I'd spend weeks in a country full of people who think the same way I do.
A few years ago, just south of Dublin, I had the interesting experience of being in a pub waiting for a funeral to start next door (in a church, not a pub, don't be thinking this is some tale of Paddywhackery) and seeing a group of women walk in who looked so like me it was uncanny. I heaved a sigh of relief and homecoming and turned to my Mammy to comment on it when I realised my cousin Paddy was with them and these were his sisters who I've never really known very well as they were always away when we visited. After years of looking nothing like my family (except the aforementioned Mammy, talk about "Send in the Clones")this was an amazing feeling and despite the sad occasion it was a wonderful feeling to be surrounded by my "kin".
"This is all very well," I hear you say, "but where is the promised twin?" Hold your horses, I'm getting there...
During those trips to Ireland we would often stop and visit my Mammy's cousin and family and I would be expected to pal around with my second cousin J and her younger brother B- who is tragically no longer with us. CousinJ is a year older than me and I was hopelessly intimidated by her and her big city glamour but we met as adults after nearly twenty years and there was an instant recognition. After we'd admitted our mutual intimidation (she thought I was the sophisticated English girl) we realised we looked alike and thought alike, and forged a relationship much closer than you'd expect from girls with a relationship no closer than a shared great-grandparent.
She lives in England now though we don't see each other as often as we'd like thanks to my precarious financial situation. I can talk to her about things I can't share with my sisters and she understands me instantly. She makes me laugh and provided my favourite quote for the Overheard Exhibition. She understands my issues with food and I was delighted to be able to steer her away from Lighter Life and toward Beyond Chocolate. She and her husband are a dreadful influence on me at family parties and it's their fault that I've now made two speeches whilst a little drunk. Take away the difference in our accents and you'd have difficulty telling us apart when we speak, save she says "Grand" and I say "Fantastic". I have no hesitation in saying that I love her dearly and plan to retire to her spare room from whence I will emerge to join her in a double-act that leaves her husband breathless and laughing that,
"You two are so alike".
We are, and I love it!