Gaia and Maya were born in July 1998.
Gaia arrived first, and Maya followed, which appears to have been their dynamic throughout childhood. Discussing them with their Mum (Kim) and Aunt (Talia) they described the following:
‘Gaia was always a big character, out of the twins too, she was the one up front and Maya was pushed back a little’ Talia
‘…until they were separated at school and Maya was able to come out of herself a little’ Kim adds.
When I asked Maya about this dynamic she agreed. She described how in family photos:
‘You can see Gaia is very expressive and emotive and I’m just sat there very terrified of everything’.
‘The first four years of our lives we were always together… we were very different people but we were always masterminding together on plans, I guess we were mischievous and cheeky… we’d plan pranks and carry them out around the house’.
Mischievous, cheeky and inseparable were repeated themes about the twins’ childhood, throughout my conversations. Clara, who was 20 months old when the twins were born, reflected on the tightness of Gaia and Maya’s very close relationship, the connection that comes from being a twin, one she didn’t really understand, couldn’t understand as an older sister, I’m not sure anyone who isn’t a twin could. Although they were all very close in age and clearly a close knit family.
Maya described how they had a sort of non-verbal communication with each other, she called it a ‘twin language’ and described how they’d communicate with noises and they’d understand what the other twin was saying, it wasn’t written down, just shared noises and shared understanding. Maya recalled:
‘I was pretty non-verbal as a kid, Gaia was more vocal… I’ve memories of looking at her and knowing how she was feeling and thinking, just by looking into her eyes… I know that’ll sound weird’.
Maya does this a lot, apologises for herself, her tangents and jumps in to caveat what she shares as odd or weird, except to me none of it sounded very weird, or anything other than exactly what you’d expect. Their bond unmistakeable.
Once they got to school they were split up, in reception class. I asked how that was and Maya recalled looking across the playground and seeing Gaia with a whole gaggle of friends, it was easy for her, people were drawn to her. Maya had a different experience, she told a story about pretending to eat a worm in the playground and the other kids just not being into that, she recalls struggling to understand the social side of things, and Gaia just flourishing:
‘She was good at building trust in people, she was quite a loyal person…Gaia found friends like that [Maya clicks her fingers] but I was the opposite and had one good friend’.
We chatted about this a bit; I grew up with a little sister who was a total social butterfly, every time we went to the beach she’d make a new ‘best friend’ which I just thought was ridiculous. We discussed sisterly dynamics a bit. Maya gets it, she is very self-deprecating, but she also kind of flushes with admiration for Gaia, and how at ease she made everyone feel.
I asked Maya about secondary school and whether they ever ended up in classes together and she starts chuckling about how school:
‘quickly learned when they were put together it wasn’t a good idea and they’d cause trouble without even meaning to’.
I asked for an example and Maya starts talking about a science class they were both in together. As she’s recalling the lesson, she starts laughing to herself, there’s a glint in her eye and she’s struggling to remember the details. It was a lesson about the food chain and this is what she tells me, in between chuckles:
‘…it was in science and Gaia makes a contribution about the food chain, she thought she was being helpful, she was serious.
The teacher asked her what’s above what on the food chain, and Gaia just comes out with… I don’t know…. the whale eats the cow, the cow eats… I can’t remember the detail but she just picked everything in size order, getting smaller and smaller.
She was deadly serious, trying to be helpful but I started laughing, then others started laughing, she made everyone laugh in the classroom although she didn’t really understand why. I was crying laughter, in the end we both got sent out.
No, they definitely avoided putting us in classes together’.
Talking to Gaia’s family I heard lots about how intricately connected Gaia and Maya were.
I’ll touch on this more another day, but for now I’ll finish on a recollection that came up in my conversation with Kim and Talia. They described being in their parent’s house (the twins’ grandparents house) and Gaia and Maya rolling across the lounge floor as one, a sort of identical twin roly poly.
Every so often an adult would force them to disengage from each other, which would result in uncontrollable laughter, a deeply infectious laughter.
They would be teased apart briefly before magnetism pulled them back together, until they were as one again.