Generalized Anxiety Disorder and surprises don’t go well together. As a child, my brothers capitalized on this: they would wait, patiently, silently, behind doors or corners and pop out to yell in my face. It worked like a charm and produced the desired effect of tears, and made me paranoid to the point where I would lean over to look around a corner or a door before stepping around or through.

That’s right. My brothers had effectively turned me into Hermoine in The Chamber of Secrets. All I needed was a mirror to look around corners to make sure I wasn’t looking in their eyes. I already had the crazy hair down pat. And the obnoxious goody-two-shoes.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (film)
A family portrait circa 2002. I was actually more like Dobby.

So over the years, I’ve phased surprises out of my existence. I’m not good at them. Usually, I worry excessively about what they might be or the possible repercussions of a really cool surprise (Surprise! You got a motorcycle as a birthday present. Surprise! You died in an accident. Or, Surprise! I got you this fancy necklace. Surprise! It’s cursed and now you’re dead.). I’m better about not freaking out when someone wants to surprise me, but generally speaking, I just hide it better.

Yesterday, my mom surprised me so badly that it knocked off the other two posts I was planning on writing. It was completely unexpected, but also slightly expected in the way that a car accident is unexpected (but almost inevitable at some point in your life) or an atomic wedgie is unexpected (but inevitable if you have siblings, or bullies). At this point in my life, I’m used to absolutely bizarre things happening. What I’m not used to is learning about them 23 years after the fact.

My mother and I met for breakfast yesterday, which is our time to eat at Snooze (hi, Le Clown!) and crack jokes at our expense. As we waited for half an hour to be seated, my mother and I discussed everything from my stepsiblings, to my impending move across the country, to my muscles, to what movies are in theatres. At one point, she turned to me and said, “Whitney, you’re more like my peer now, right? I can share things with you. It doesn’t bother you does it?”

“Of course not,” I replied. “Otherwise, how would I ever know what’s going on in our family?” We laughed heartily. It’s true; my mother is my main source of information.

She smiled. “Well, I have something really important to tell you.”

And my anxiety went, “oh, shit, a surprise.” When I get anxious about something, I tend to make jokes about it. I wasn’t really nervous as to what she had to tell me, but I knew it was serious because my mom doesn’t generally keep anything from me. Generally being the key word in that sentence.

“Are you and dad getting back together?” I shuddered. We laughed. “Seriously, though, mom. It’s a nightmare I have a lot. You and dad decide to date and you and Ron are still dating and it’s weird and uncomfortable. Please don’t do that.”

English: Tom Hanks at a ceremony for George Ha...
This is who my step dad looks like, almost to a T.
D. Washington, Berlinale 2000
And we all know this is who my dad looks like. Can you imagine these family gatherings? If they happened, they would be epic.

My mom laughed. “Actually, Whitney, he’s suing for full custody.”
My stomach clenched. I knew she was kidding, but he had threatened to do so before.

“Oh my God,” I breathed. “You scared me with that one. For a second I thought you were serious, but then I remembered that I’m 22. He can’t do that.”
My mom and I giggled in unison. It’s really weird when that happens; it makes me stop laughing and it makes my mom laugh harder. We are a strange duo.

“No, that’s not what it’s about.” She began, but suddenly it was time for us to be seated. My curiosity piqued, I looked at her with my puppy face. My friends will attest that my puppy face is probably too effective, but as I have been making that face for my parents for almost 23 years, it’s kind of lost its charm with them. Damn.

My mom began her exposition: She was having lunch with a friend discussing her life when she realized that she was doing precisely what she wanted someone else to stop doing. She was hiding something from me that was controlling me. A secret that was eating away at her, and had been since I was born.

Now I was really curious. What was she going to tell me? That I really was adopted? That I really am the daughter of our neighborhood milkman? That she found me in a spaceship in a field in Kansas and raised me as her own and now she wanted me to accept my powers and help save humanity? (Please, I thought, Please let it be the third one)

Superman (comic book)
This is what I look like while I’m packing up my apartment.

“When I was ten weeks pregnant with you… I think it was ten weeks… It was about your brother’s third birthday, so that must be right, ” get to the point, I thought, “I started spotting. It was a Sunday and we called the doctor. They told us to come right in.”

I started getting an inkling in my stomach.

“They did an ultrasound and found your heartbeat. The doctor said that at ten weeks with such a strong heartbeat, there was a 95% chance of survival. We didn’t have to worry about you. But,” She breathed, and the writer in me took advantage of the situation.

“My twin didn’t make it.” I said, eyes wide. “Is that it?” Her eyes widened to match mine, and she nodded.

“HOLY SHIT! What. I CAN’T EVEN.” I wasn’t mad; in fact, I started laughing. The whole thing was so weird, but I can’t say I didn’t feel some sort of relief or acknowledgement or foreknowledge.

“Why did you keep this from me for so long? I’ve been cool for about 7 years now!” We laughed.

“Your father and I agreed to tell you at some point, but then we saw what an anxious child you were. So we didn’t. And then I read that Stephen King book about the guy who had his twin’s teeth and eyes in his head and that really freaked me out.”

“Well, you know, mom,” I began, “That movie Teeth? I absorbed my twin. And I use her powers to nom off the members of people I don’t like.” We laughed some more. “But seriously, why did you wait so long? Did you just forget? Because I could’ve handled this a while ago.”

“There were some rough spots in there, Whitney. But I just couldn’t do it anymore.” I didn’t agree with her wholeheartedly about the rough spots, but then, upon reflection, she was right. As a freshman in college, I had a mental breakdown when I developed an allergy to my medication. Then there was my near-death “vacation.” So I guess she was right.

But Goddam. Can you imagine two of me running around? Holy fucking shitballs, batman. I guess I just absorbed her, and all of her awesomeness.

Highest Form of Whit: Only The Strong Survive.

With my luck, we'd be conjoined in a high-five. And it would've been awesome.
With my luck, we’d be conjoined in a high-five. And it would’ve been awesome.

9 thoughts on “Surprise!

  1. My brother once went on the roof and knocked on the window when I was about to get in the shower to scare me after watching the episode of The Practice where Lara Flynn Boyle gets attacked in the shower…. so totally understand that feeling. Not so much on the twin front, though. (Although I agree a conjoined high five is the only conjoined way to go).

    1. My brother once knocked on my door after I got out of the shower and threw his lizard on me while I was in my bathrobe. I cried. He also used to do the roof thing, but just knock on my window to freak me out.

  2. WOW! That is some news! I’m sure you have to take some time to absorb that one. How interesting. I hope that you can envision the positive things that would have happened if she had lived. 🙂

  3. Haha, I’m a fan of the conjoined high-five. Seriously though that’s crazy! A couple months ago a pretty large (benign) cyst grew out of my neck, and my friends all joked that it was my absorbed twin slowly emerging and taking over my body. Watch out for that.

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