My dad had a wicked sense of humor. I was in second or third grade when the teacher sent us home to memorize a poem. We had a week to learn it. It was up to our parents to select a poem and help us learn it. My father really resented teachers who asked him to sit still and teach his kids stuff. Mom always thought it was good for him (and us) when he wasn't overseas somewhere. Bonding they would call it now.
I guess he figured that they were going to have to listen to me recite it, so he picked a very long poem from my mom's little green book of favorite poems she had copied down. Mom gave poetry readings in high school that were really funny. Dad worked with me until I recite it from memory—with feeling. I still can.
Of course at that age, I didn't realize it was a poem about two boys. Actually, I didn't really understand the poem at all, but I didn't really care. I loved spending time with Daddy, and this was great attention. We spent hours working on it.
I remember that the teacher had set aside an afternoon for the poetry readings, and we didn't finish. I guess that was my fault. The other poems were like nursery rhymes and stuff. But I was proud. I didn't miss a word. The teacher's mouth was hanging open. I do remember that. Here for posterity is the poem, even though I have no idea who wrote it.
(anonymous as far as I know)
In form and feature face and limb,
I grew so much like my brother
That folks got taking me for him,
And each one for the other.
It puzzled all our kith and kin.
It reached an awful pitch,
For one of us was born a twin,
Yet not a soul knew which.
One day, to make the matters worse,
Before our names were fixed,
As we were being washed by nurse
We got completely mixed.
And thus, you see, by fate's decree,
Or rather, nurse's whim,
My brother John got christened me
And I got christened him.
This fatal likeness even dogged
My footsteps when at school,
And I was always being flogged
For John turned out a fool.
I put this question hopelessly
To everyone I knew:
What would you do if you were me
To prove that you were you?
The close resemblance turned the tide
Of my domestic life,
For somehow my intended bride
Became my brother's wife.
In short, year after year the same
Absurd mistakes went on.
And when I died the neighbors came
And buried brother John.