Hello, and come in, please! We’re so glad you accepted our invitation to lunch. Can I get you some water or iced tea? We might have a beer or two in the fridge, and if you want ’em, they’re yours.
So, this is our home—and, again, thank you for agreeing not to bring your daughter with you today. We dropped ours off with her grandparents so it wouldn’t seem like we were playing favorites while we chat, just the adults. First, though, we want to officially welcome you to the neighborhood. You moved here last month from upstate? Someone mentioned the specific town, and I thought I’d heard of it. My uncle owned a bakery there a long time ago, though it might very well have been somewhere else entirely.
Now, if you’re thinking that we wanted to talk to you because our daughter and yours don’t get along, that’s not the case at all. To the contrary, they seem to have taken quite a shine to one another. No, the problem—if it even is a problem—is that they look almost identical, and we’re a little… surprised, I guess is the word, by the uncanny resemblance. And we’re curious to know if you are as well. Also, do you prefer your chicken salad with mayo or without?
I suppose we were first alerted to the fact that your Emma and our Ella look very much alike just a few weeks ago, when my wife brought home your daughter instead of ours at the end of the school day. It’s impossible to say, of course, whether she’d have made that particular mistake if you hadn’t already taken home our daughter instead of your own literally just minutes earlier, but in any case assigning blame isn’t something we’re interested in doing. And anyway, and to everyone’s credit, that first incident was resolved promptly and with a minimum of police intervention.
After a quiet week or so, however, we were called in by Miss Karen—you know, I just realized that I have no idea what her last name is—because of something “inappropriate and somewhat threatening” that Ella said in class. After a confusing few minutes, we figured out that it had in fact been Emma who had misbehaved—allegedly—and we were free to go, with Miss Karen’s apologies. On our way out, we noticed a photo of the class in which Emma and Ella are wearing identical sweaters. At first, we thought that was very cute, of course, but then we remembered that Ella’s sweater was hand-knit for her by my wife’s grandmother. Did Emma’s great-grandmother knit hers, by any chance? You know, it’s not impossible that both women have the same collection of patterns clipped from old issues of Good Housekeeping and Ladies’ Home Journal. That would make sense. Here, I’ll take those bowls. Keep your forks.
Does Emma pretend to be Ella at home from time to time? Has Emma ever told stories about relatives she doesn’t have or sung songs that you’ve never heard or asked to visit one of you at a job you don’t have? I ask only because Ella’s been doing those sorts of things recently—maybe for the past couple of days—and we think it’s a bit funny. Funny and unusual, though mostly funny. Does Emma ever pretend that you’re someone else’s parents? Us, for instance? The other day, we thought Ella was calling us by your names, as it happens. Does your daughter call you by your first names? She does. Well, has she been calling you “Mom” and “Dad” recently, then? Has Emma been talking about moving at all? Ella’s asked more than once if we’re ever going to be moving “back” upstate. How about some fresh ice for your tea? I’m also going to make some coffee.
Anyway, that’s pretty much what was on our minds, and I think we’re both feeling better that we were able to talk with you guys about it. Oh, before you go, I did want to mention that we considered “doppelgartener” as well as “kindergänger.” In the end we just went with the one that sounded more friendly and less accusatory. As I said before, we’re not interested in placing blame. We just want to be sure we’re each still raising the right lovely little girl.
Matthew David Brozik is the author of Danger… With a Hard G and Whimsy & Soda (among other books) as well as numerous (mercifully) short pieces of humor and fiction. Read more at imdb.name. Follow him on Twitter but plan to be (sorely) disappointed.