When I was ten years old, I became self-conscious about a brown arrowhead below the knee on my left leg. My classmates teased me and called it a birthmark. When I asked Mama why my twin sister didn’t have a mark like mine, she replied “Neither of you had a birthmark. You were perfect babies.”
Perfect babies. How could that be? Unexpected twins born to a mother 41 years old, their father nearing 50, and grandparents the previous year. No prenatal care for Mama. Twins weighing an estimated eight pounds combined with no hospital incubators to warm them from the cold desert nights and no electricity to cool them in the heat of the day. Scarcely enough clothes made for one baby, now worn by two. Without bassinets or cribs, the twins shared one pillow.
So identical, not the tiniest mole or blemish, they were bathed separately; quite an inconvenience with no indoor plumbing. One twin wore clothing embroidered with a red French knot to preserve their identities.
Friends in California had written letters to Mama in Oklahoma that prompted this trek to the SanJoaquin Valley. Mild weather. Plenty of farm work in cotton and fruit. This was the place to live.
The Carr family left Oklahoma working their way west, but hard times stopped their journey in Arizona. They lived in a tent in a farm labor camp. A nice tent, Mama said, with wood half walls and plank flooring. The tent was already crowded, but in expectation of another child, she made room for one more.
Despite Aunt Rosey’s years of midwife expertise, the delivery did not go well. She sent Elmer, Mama’s second born son, running miles to the nearest town to fetch the doctor. Before he returned with the physician, identical twin girls made their appearance. The doctor arrived, confirmed the mono delivery, issued birth certificates from scanty information, and departed.
The arrowhead, though faint and shapeless, is still visible. When did it appear? I don’t know, but it isn’t a birthmark because we were perfect babies.
“Perfect Babies” by Violet Carr Moore, published in Double Take, Copyright 2014, published by Carr Twins & Co.