Sisters Allison and Jennifer Pokrzywka are proud of their personality quirks.
“I’m more creative,” Allison said. “I love drawing.”
“I’m more sensitive,” Jennifer said. “If somebody says something hurtful, I’ll just cry.”
“And if I fold my clothes, she’ll cram hers into one drawer,” Allison added.
“I’m not very organized,” Jennifer admitted.
The talkative 15-year-olds with dark blond hair and hazel-blue eyes are fraternal twins. They’re not identical replicas, but they look enough alike to encourage double takes from friends and relatives.
Double play combinations are common with the Pokrzywka girls and some of their friends in the Galway Central School District. There are 25 sets of twins in the 991-student school complex, grades kindergarten through 12. Fourth-graders Carter and Carson Scribner are the only identical twins. The other 48 kids are fraternal.
“It’s something that sort of evolved in front of us,” said Peter Bednarek, principal of Galway Junior-Senior High School. “It’s in the water — that’s what everybody up here likes to say.”
Others say a duo is fun. And that they take a little time to nurture.
“It’s a lot of work,” said Mary Pokrzywka, mother of the creative and sensitive freshmen. “Everything is times two from the time they’re born. Two feedings, two naps, two runny noses. And the older they get, two separate directions.”
Pokrzywka knew she was having twins before the girls arrived in 1996, Allison first and Jennifer one minute later. Pokrzywka was able to tell the babies apart.
“But no one else could,” she said. “In-laws and grandparents would mix them up.”
As the girls grow older, Pokrzywka knows where to look for positive IDs where others might not.
“Jennifer is a little thinner in the face and she has a longer face,” she said. “Allison’s rounder. You can tell just by the way they carry themselves, too.”
It’s been fun watching the girls grow up.
“They’re together a lot; they’re even in a lot of the same classes at school,” Pokrzywka said. “They fight like siblings but they really, at the end of the day, are best friends. There is a different bond with twins, almost like they do know what each other is thinking. They look out for each other.”
Dr. Nicholas Kulbida, chief medical officer of women’s services at Ellis Medicine in Schenectady, said twins are more common than people might think.
“From our community, in terms of the deliveries that we do, about 2,500 deliveries a year, over the course of 2011 we saw our number of twin births jump by about 41 percent over 2008,” Kulbida said. “We had 48 sets of twins.”
There are reasons for the bonus babies.
“There appears to be two basic reasons,” Kulbida said. “One of them is increased availability of infertility treatments, specifically in infertility treatments utilizing ovulation-stimulating agents, and in vitro fertilization, so there is much more availability of these types of treatments now as opposed to 15 years ago.”
He added that women who are using such treatments are usually of a more advanced maternal age. “So as maternal age increases, we also see the likelihood of twins increasing,” he said.
Multiple gestations, Kulbida added, increase even for women who do not use fertility assists — if they are older prospective mothers.
Twins at Galway say there are advantages and disadvantages to having close personal confidantes.
“It’s nice because we can help each other with our homework,” said Kayleigh Goergen, 15, of her partnership with brother Tyler.
Tyler is just glad the coupling was fraternal. Life as an identical twin, he believes, would have presented complications.
“People wouldn’t be able to tell us apart,” he said. “And I didn’t want to look like a girl.”
Like the Pokrzywkas, Cody and Shane Marshall have the same builds and same general looks. The 17-year-old seniors are both into sports, and like the telepathy that comes with twin thinking.
“In Pop Warner, he used to be a quarterback and I was a wide receiver,” Shane said. “When it’s your twin you can definitely trust him. You know what motivates each other, it kind of brings out your own unique moxie with your twin.”
The guys occasionally bring that moxie to the baseball diamond; Cody is an infielder and pitcher on Galway’s baseball team. Shane catches. The Marshalls were also on the soccer and basketball teams.
They’re not always on the same page. At home, Cody and Shane have separate quarters. And separate sleep habits.
“He would stay up at night and it would keep me up,” Cody said. “I wanted to start going to sleep earlier.”
Shane didn’t mind the break-up. “It gave us our own personal space,” he said.
One thing that annoys the twins are the Cody-Shane mix-ups that still happen. “If somebody calls me Cody or somebody calls him Shane, we kind of both think we don’t look that much alike and that people should be able to tell us apart,” Shane said.
Shannon and Charlotte Cerny, another set of 17-year-old seniors, also like being in the Galway twin club. “It has its ups and downs,” Shannon said. “You have to share stuff.”
“Same presents,” added Charlotte.
Shannon said she’s friends with another twin at school and the two always know what the other is thinking. “Do you get that with me?” Shannon asked Charlotte.
“No,” Charlotte answered.
There are other differences. “She likes greasy food, I like salads and stuff,” Shannon said. “She’s McDonald’s and Taco Bell.”
Erik Matthews, 11, prefers to think about the advantages of having a twin. He sees brother Justin at home and in Galway’s sixth grade. “You have someone to play with all the time,” he said. “They can help you do your chores.”
Eleven-year-olds Jillian and Justine Quay are also in sixth grade. “Now we have different haircuts,” Jillian said. “Last year we looked exactly the same. We have the same room, that’s bad. We don’t have any room.”
“And she always makes me clean the room,” added Justine.
The girls hang out with different kids and like different colors. “I like orange,” said Jillian. “I like blue,” said Justine.
“And we say the same things at the same time,” Jillian said, laughing.
Sydney and Emma Mariani are among the youngest twins. At 7, they will complete first grade at Galway this spring.
Both wore plaid sweaters on a recent cool spring day on the playground at Joseph A. Henry Elementary School.
“I’m one minute older,” said Emma, more boisterous than shy Sydney.
Sydney was willing to share some secrets. “Emma likes oranges but I don’t, unless they’re canned,” she said, quietly. “And I don’t like mustard because it’s hot. Emma likes it because it’s hot. And when Daddy says not to do something, she does it anyway. I know she’s going to get into trouble, and I don’t want to get into trouble.”
The girls both like soccer. “When we play on a team, we’re both on the same team,” Sydney said.
Charlton’s Maria Matthews, mother of 11-year-olds Erik and Justin, said raising twins is an exercise in excitement. “I don’t know how to explain it,” she said. “They’re both very different, they’re like day and night. They have opposite personalities. Erik is very outgoing, very talkative. Justin is a lot of fun, but he’s a little bit more on the quiet side. He’s kind of reserved.”
Matthews, who has two older children — daughter Tegan, a 16-year-old junior at Galway and daughter Brielle, 19, a sophomore at Hartwick College in Oneonta — said she has a twin brother and sister. Some cousins are also twins.
“For me, it runs in my family,” she said.
Twins can mean trouble around the house — but Matthews said in a fun way.
“When they were really little, Erik used to do things first. He began writing his name all over the place,” Matthews said. “Justin said, ‘I can do that,’ but instead of writing ‘Justin’ he wrote ‘Erik’ instead of his own name.”
Wendy Quay of Providence always has Jillian and Justine on her mind. The kids are dynamic presences at home and in homeroom.
“Jillian tends to like the brighter colors, she’s a little more high-maintenance,” Quay said. “Justine is very outgoing, but she’s also the one who will flex to accommodate to what Jillian wants to do a lot of the time.”
Twins also run in the Quay family. “My grandmother is an identical twin and my brother in Schenectady has a set of identical twins.”
Justin and Jordan Crandall, 18-year-old seniors, dress and look alike. They’ve switched classes before, and posed as each other. “We’re thinking about doing it for the entire day,” Justin said. “It’s our senior year, we can only do it once.”
Future surprises may be in store for other teachers and parents in Galway and the Capital Region.
“Most of the time, if we’re diagnosing early pregnancy during ultrasound and we see two or more fetuses,” Dr. Kulbida said, “that’s usually a very interesting discussion.”