By Jennifer Kotila
Howard Lake, MN Karen Felker and Kay Wiens were known as “the Chamberlain twins” when they were growing up in Howard Lake, and the fact that they were twins recently helped them get the opportunity to share a once-in-a-lifetime experience of visiting The Oprah Show, now in its final season.
Both of the women said the same thing of the experience, “It was electrifying, the whole place just buzzed.”
The show, which aired Feb. 21, was about Celine Dion and her miracle twins, along with the McGhee family and their sextuplets.
“Oprah is one amazing lady!” said Felker. “She was in a huge giving mood.”
Oprah gave the McGhee family a huge amount of money, Felker said, and everyone in the audience received two tickets to Celine Dion’s new Las Vegas show, along with a two-night stay at Caesar’s Palace.
Felker and Wiens had always thought it would be fun to be on The Oprah Show, but had never really pursued it, said Felker.
As the years passed, interest in being on the show grew as Oprah’s popularity and her topics became more appealing, but, once again, they did not pursue it.
Then one day awhile back, Felker was told by a friend from her Double Blessings twins club to check Oprah.com, because Oprah was looking for twins to be on the show.
Felker submitted an essay, and received a call from The Oprah Show the next day saying, “we would love to have you on the show.”
Felker was excited, since she had heard there was an “iron gate” for people to get through to be on the show, and someone could not just buy tickets. Even knowing someone was not enough to get them.
After the initial call, there was a second phone interview with Oprah’s people asking five more questions, then more phone and e-mail interviews.
Finally, the twins were told by Oprah’s people to show up for a taping that took place Feb. 16.
They arrived at the studio at 10 a.m., still not knowing for sure whether or not they would actually get into the show, said Wiens. They stood in line for an hour before the studio opened.
After being allowed into a waiting room at the studio, the twins finally learned at 11:30 a.m. they would be in the audience for the show, and were seated in the front row. Felker sat right next to Celine Dion’s husband, René Angélil.
“He’s an amazing man, I thanked him for being on the show,” Felker said of Angélil. “He was very nice and approachable, and his suit was impeccable!”
Since they were in the front row, “We got to high-five Oprah she has very smooth hands,” Wiens said.
What made the day the best, though, was being able to spend it together, both twins agreed.
“Dreams do come true, Felker said. “I had dreamed about being on Oprah, but the fact that the show was about multiples, and I got to spend the day with Kay, made it that much better.”
“To experience this with Karen we didn’t even have to speak to each other we knew what we were thinking,” Wiens said.
To be a twin
It is truly amazing how similar identical twins can be. After doing phone interviews with the Chamberlain twins, first calling Felker in Illinois, then Wiens in Maple Grove, it felt like only one person had been spoken with.
Felker ended the conversation saying, “You’re so lucky!” about being able to speak with Wiens, and Wiens began the conversation saying, “You’re so lucky!” about having just spoken to Felker (they had not spoken with each other in the meantime).
“When you’re a twin, you feel each other’s emotions share each other’s lives,” Felker said. “When we are together, there is a huge contentment. We don’t even have to talk; I know what she’s thinking.”
“You’re born with your very best forever friend,” Wiens said about being a twin.
“We feel like a complete person again when we see each other,” Felker said.
“After the show, we took taxi’s back to the commuter station, where I caught a plane out, and Karen took a train. I could almost feel my heart tearing in half again. I miss her when she’s not with me, but it’s also something deeper.”
While at The Oprah Show, waiting in line and in the waiting room, the twins were able to visit with other twins about what it’s like being a twin.
They reminisced about switching classes in high school. The teachers never realized they had switched until the rest of the class was laughing so hard, the teacher knew something was up.
Twins also share feelings or pain. For instance, once, in high school, the twins went to the dentist for what was supposed to be a regular cleaning and checkup.
Wiens was in the waiting room when she began to feel pain in one of her teeth, which she could not understand.
When Felker came back to the waiting room, she told Wiens she had needed a sealant or tooth filled, which finally explained the pain Wiens was feeling.
When Wiens, who has three boys, went into labor, “I was a complete wreck and didn’t feel good at all,” Felker said.
Each twin has been in a car accident that caused the other twin to feel frantic and anxious, knowing something had happened, but not knowing what.
They felt that way until they were able to talk to each other and find out everything was okay.
While the twins didn’t always try to so things the same, it is just something that happens, Felker said.
However, they did want to establish their separateness, which they proved when they were about 3 years old.
Their mom, Betty, always dressed them in the same outfit. One Sunday morning, their mom had laid out two identical dresses for them to wear to Sunday school.
The twins then asked their mom, “Which dress is mine?” to which she responded, “It doesn’t matter which dress it is. They are both alike.”
But one of the twins said, “No, I want my own dress!” Their mom said both girls looked concerned because they didn’t know which dress to pick.
“We just wanted something of our own,” the twins said. So, from that moment on, their mom said that she would never buy identical clothes for them to wear.
She would buy either the same style of clothes in different colors, or similar styles.
To this day, Felker and Wiens still dress similarly, both having the same taste in clothes. They chose to wear JCrew sweaters to Oprah, but Felker wore hot pink and Wiens wore bright orange.
“But there are days when we will dress totally alike without even telling each other!” Wiens said.
Both agree that their mom and dad, Dwight, did an excellent job raising them to be individuals, even though the twins often chose to pursue the same things.
Felker, who has fraternal twins of her own, hopes to do the same with her girls, she said.
Fond memories of Howard Lake
The Chamberlains moved to Howard Lake when the twins were 9 months old, and lived there until the twins were finished with college.
Dwight was a minister at the First Presbyterian church and was very involved in the community and the school.
Felker can remember people knocking at their door late at night, sometimes to tell about homeless men traveling Highway 12. Her father would bring the man to stay at a hotel for the night.
Both women mentioned how wonderful it was to walk down the street, and everybody knew each other and would say, “hi.”
They also said living close to the lake was something they enjoyed when they lived in Howard Lake.
“I love the fact that the town is on this beautiful lake. I think I cherish it more because where I live, there is only a small man-made lake,” Felker said.
Wiens remembers walking and running around Howard Lake.
The twins started piano lessons in second grade, with Vickie Berg. “She was a phenomenal piano teacher,” Felker said.
They continued their love of music throughout their high school years, accompanying choir concerts on the piano. Both were also active in band, playing the flute.
Wiens now teaches piano and flute in Maple Grove.
There were many other activities the twins were a part of in their high school years. Both cheered for football and basketball, and were on the track team.
When they graduated from high school, the twins were co-salutatorians, and both attended Wheaton College after graduation.
“The schools in Howard Lake prepared us for a tough college like Wheaton,” Felker said.
Felker now teaches early childhood education courses to seniors at Wheaton, she said, and uses many of her teachers from Howard Lake as examples for her students.
Although the twins do not get to come back to Howard Lake often, they did come back for their 20-year class reunion in 2009.
They also try to come back to town when their dad is the guest minister at the Presbyterian Church.
“We love Howard Lake,” Felker said.
“Howard Lake is definitely our hometown,” Wiens added.