Pam Adkins, left, teaches at Mesa Elemenand Tam Curry, right, are twin sisters that teach at Mesa Elementary and her twin sister Tam Curry at Clovis Christian. (Staff photo: Andy DeLisle
By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer
The kindergarten teacher plucked an old hardback book from a shelf in her sister’s classroom.
“Can I have this?” Tam Curry asked her sister.
“Yeah,” the first-grade teacher answered.
Thumbing through the gem, Curry explained, “I collect old books.”
The sisters then settled on a small beige futon, across from a blue bench. The shelf is within reach of the seats, making this a cozy nook for Pam Adkins’ novice readers.
The sisters share a love of books, which they hope to pass on to their young students. This is just one of many, many things they have in common.
Adkins and Curry are identical twins.
They share professions, churches and the hometown of Clovis. They share family sizes (each has two children), and married within two years of one another.
For the first time this year, they have shared a student.
D.J. Grayson Jr. graduated last year from Curry’s kindergarten class at Clovis Christian School. He has moved to Mesa Elementary School, where Adkins is his teacher.
“They are awesome,” said D.J., wearing a Spider-Man T-shirt and Spider-Man sneakers, his Spider-Man backpack tossed on the ground near his miniature desk in Adkins’ classroom.
D.J. — unlike many in Clovis who know the twins, including fellow church members, legions of students and even family — can tell them apart with relative ease.
How does he do it?
“Their voices and their hair, it’s a little bit different. … I get mixed up,” he acknowledges, “when I don’t see one.”
For Grayson’s mother, Anne, that knack didn’t come as easily.
When she thought she saw Curry outside of school one day last year, Grayson was puzzled, and a little hurt, when she didn’t receive the warm greeting Curry usually gives her.
“I forgot there was a twin sister,” Grayson said.
Such mistakes happen regularly, said the twins, 47. Even their husbands have been known to confuse the sisters over the phone.
As they have aged, the mixups, however, are less frequent.
Both sisters wear wire-rimmed glasses, but Adkins’ are colored like a tortoise shell, Curry’s, brown. Adkins’ hair is strawberry blonde, and reaches to her shoulders; Curry’s is auburn, cropped nearer to her chin.
Adkins moved to Clovis from Tucumcari, where the twins were born, in 1979. Curry followed in 1993.
“I lived in her shadow the first year,” Curry said.
The twins just smile and nod when mistaken for one another.
“You don’t want people to feel uncomfortable,” said Curry, born 5 minutes after her sister.
At the supermarket, children often run up to Adkins and hug her.
“I say, ‘I’m not Ms. Curry,’” Adkins said, “but I will still give you a hug.”
Adkins and Curry were born to Glenda Carpenter. The 5-foot-1, 101-pound woman said she had no idea she was pregnant with twins until the day of their birth.
“I am a little, bitty person. I am not wide enough to carry one baby, much less two,” Carpenter said.
The bracelets placed on their arms the day they were born were left there for quite some time, Carpenter said. They helped an overwhelmed mother identify her mirror-image twins.
Split from the same fertilized egg later than usual, mirror-image twins are mirror images of each other and show characteristics with reversed symmetry.
Adkins, for instance, writes with her right-hand, but does everything else with her left; Curry writes with her left-hand, but does everything else with her right.
According to one government Web site, approximately one-quarter of identical twins are mirror images of each other.
“Growing up, Tam was the leader; Pam was the follower. Then, it reversed,” Carpenter said.
These days, the women have a more balanced relationship, Carpenter said.
“I am so proud of them to be teachers now,” Carpenter said.
“To me,” she said, “they are the sweetest human beings on Earth.”
This isn’t simply a mother’s bias.
“Everybody rants and raves about how wonderful they are,” Grayson said, sharing a seat on the futon after school with the twins.
“A lot of your drive in life has to do with a strong sister leading the way. One person complements the other. I see that in the two of them,” Grayson said.