Diary

Twins Reunite After 20 Years

12 April 2004

Here is a fascinating story I recently came across again as I started to read a book on what is known about the similarities in behavior of identical twins raised apart.

New York. As soon as Tamara Rabi arrived at Hofstra University, she
noticed the bizarre behavior. People she had never laid
eyes on would smile, wave and greet her as an intimate.
Then, met by Tamara’s blank stare, they would walk away. A
few friends claimed to have spotted someone who looked just
like her. Someone else from Mexico, she figured.
So when a friend of a friend showed up at her 20th birthday
party and could not stop gawking, insisting that Tamara
looked just like his friend Adriana Scott, it was mildly
annoying but not a surprise. As the other guests dug into
ice cream cake, the friend’s friend persisted. Adriana had
also been born in Mexico, he said. Like Tamara, she was
also adopted. And the two young women shared a birthday.
Thus began the real-life unfolding of a fairy-tale story
line, a paradigm that has inspired psychological studies
(nature vs. nurture), movies (“The Parent Trap”) and at
least one sitcom (“Sister, Sister”).

 

Adriana, raised Roman Catholic in a house with a white
picket fence in Valley Stream, on Long Island, and Tamara,
raised Jewish in an apartment near the American Museum of
Natural History on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, are
twins. Because of problems in the adoption process, they
were separated at birth.
For the twins and the women who adopted them as infants,
the discovery has been a wondrous but complicated gift. The
twins’ adoptive fathers both died of cancer, one of several
uncanny parallels. Neither knew she had a twin sister, and
Tamara’s adoptive mother, Judy Rabi, also did not know.
Adriana’s adoptive mother, Diane Scott, knew, but did not
know how to find her daughter’s twin.
With the help of the insistent party guest, Justin Latorre,
Tamara and Adriana had their first contact - electronically
- a few evenings after the birthday celebration.
The two exchanged instant messages on their computers:
Tamara flanked by friends in her dorm room at Hofstra,
Adriana with her mother at home. They learned that both
were 5-foot-3 3/8, “and it makes the difference,” and that
Tamara loves Chinese food, and Adriana doesn’t.
Mrs. Scott had long feared the moment she would have to
tell her daughter the secret. Would Adriana understand how
difficult it had been for her and her husband, Peter, to
return to New York from Guadalajara with one twin and not
the other, a heartbreak brought on by roadblocks in the
adoption process? Would she understand that her parents had
kept secret the knowledge that she was a twin to spare her,
at least for a while, a frustrating search for her sister?
That evening, Mrs. Scott had a more immediate question:
Was this Tamara from Hofstra really the one? She had at
least one clue, the belief that the other baby had been
adopted either by a rabbi or by a family named Rabi. So,
her eyes fixed on the computer screen, she told Adriana to
ask Tamara’s last name.
“Rabi,” came the reply.
“When I saw it coming up on the Internet, that last name, I
thought, `Oh, my gosh, this is it,’ ” Mrs. Scott said.
For Tamara, confirmation came when Adriana sent a picture
of herself by e-mail. Had it not been for the teeth
straightened by braces and the absence of a birthmark near
the right eyebrow, it could have been a snapshot of Tamara
herself.
“The picture came up and our jaws dropped,” said Christie
Lothrop, 19, one of Tamara’s suitemates. “We didn’t know
what to do.”
The twins agreed to meet the following Sunday in a
McDonald’s parking lot near Hofstra, a world away from the
Guadalajara hospital where they had last been together.
Tamara brought two friends; Adriana, a junior at nearby
Adelphi University, brought one.
On the way, each twin panicked and suggested turning
around. The friends would not have it. Identical twins
separated at birth find one another on Long Island and then
chicken out of their reunion? Forget about it.
Soon they were face to face, sisters who had grown up as
only children. “I’m just standing there looking at her,”
Adriana recalled. “It was a shock. I saw me.”
The group went somewhere else for lunch, where the twins
sat side by side nibbling at chicken fajitas as their
friends ogled at the similarities in their expressions,
their gestures and how both rested for a few minutes
midmeal, then resumed eating.
Later that day, at the Scotts’ house, Tamara had trouble
tearing her eyes away from what appeared to be her
alternative past. There she was, captured on videotape, in
a commercial for toilet paper. There she was, in a white
frilly dress, for communion at the Church of the Blessed
Sacrament. When Tamara finished a sentence with, “and, dah
dah dah dah dah,” Mrs. Scott burst out laughing. It sounded
so familiar.
Still giddy, the twins and their friends drove into
Manhattan to meet Tamara’s mother, who had been skeptical
about the whole story. That ended when her daughter walked
in with a look-alike clutching childhood photos. “It was
just incredible,” Ms. Rabi said. “You just blink your eyes
and say, `This can’t be real.’ ” She ran to get her
neighbor, who bore witness to the fact that it was.
The following weeks were a whirl of breathless e-mail,
eye-popping surprises and constant retellings to anyone who
would listen, which meant everyone. The twins paraded each
other through their respective campuses, and to their
part-time jobs. A Hofstra student interviewed Tamara for a
class assignment, and a senior communications major asked
to do his final project on the twins.
Tamara, who shares a name with a character on “Sister,
Sister,” had for years been asked from time to time, “Hey,
Tamara, where’s your twin?” Now she had an answer, although
DNA testing has not yet been done.
But the twins and their mothers have also experienced other
emotions, subtleties that those on the listening end of
their story could not be expected to quite understand.
What, after all, is the “right” reaction when you are an
only child who suddenly has a twin sister with your voice,
your olive skin and even a pair of silver hoop earrings
similar to yours? And as a widowed mother, how do you feel
watching your only child bond with a sibling?
>From the start, Adriana said that finding a twin was a
dream come true. In the weeks after their first meeting,
she called Tamara often and invited her to parties, or
announced that she was near Hofstra, and did Tamara want
her to stop by. She placed a picture of both of them in a
silver frame decorated with the word “sisters” that she had
bought for a photograph of her sorority. She gave Tamara an
identical frame.
For Tamara, though, life was more complicated. Her adoptive
father, Yitzhak, had just died on Nov. 11, about three
weeks before the big reunion. Finding Adriana was a joyous
distraction. “We were feeling so bad, and then that
happened, it kind of took us to a different place,” her
mother said. But the grief was still raw, and the
convergence of the two life-altering twists was
overwhelming.
Tamara did not always return her sister’s calls, and she
declined more invitations than she accepted. “It was hard
to find out how to have a sister in your life when you’ve
never had a sibling,” she said. “We’re not as close as
people feel we should be.”
Slowly, hesitantly, and sometimes still giddily, they are
getting there, settling into their strange, unexpected
sisterhood.
They have discovered that as children, they occasionally
had the same haunting nightmare in which a loud sound fades
into softness and then gets loud again, and that they both
love dancing and started lessons when they were young.
When Adriana told Tamara about an audition for
Entertainment Tonite, a D.J. company looking for dancers to
help energize parties, they decided to go together. At the
audition Wednesday night, the twins danced side by side,
their ponytails swinging in sync as they followed the
choreographer, Dayton A. Mealing.
Afterward, they told him their story. “I would have
freaked,” he proclaimed. “Awesome.” And when it comes to
dancing, “they’re both awesome.”
The twins were hired, said Mili Makhijani, 22, of
Entertainment Tonite. Dancers are usually told to spread
out and do different moves, Ms. Makhijani said. Not Adriana
and Tamara. “These are the two,” she said, “that are never
going to separate.”

(NYT, March 3, 2003)

Author

Peter

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