Though Lansdowne High School handed out diplomas to its graduating seniors May 31, the Biddinger family home on Carville Avenue still had decorations up commemorating the occasion a week later.
Two sets of photo albums, teddy bears, snow globes and photographs occupied space on the coffee table.
A sign that read "Congrats Grad" hung on the living room wall.
Streamers bordered a TV. Balloons tied to furniture floated in the air.
After all the work Melanie and Melissa Biddinger, 17, had done for the past four years, an extended celebration was well deserved.
The sisters became the first set of twins in Lansdowne High history to serve as co-valedictorians.
It's not known if they are the first in the Baltimore County Public School system. School spokesman Charlie Herndon said that is not information the system keeps track of.
"I think it's safe to assume this is a unique situation," he said
Earning that recognition is a goal the twins set before their freshman year.
"They constantly just strove together and it meant more," said their mother, Robin Biddinger. "Being together from beginning to end, and being there and always helping each other, is what really made them successful."
The hardest part over the four years, the twins agreed, was missing activities their peers were enjoying, like staying up late to watch TV and going out more often with friends.
"We made sacrifices along the way, but it all paid off," Melissa said.
"There was a lot of nights where we stayed up really, really late, but not by choice of doing what we wanted," Melanie said. "It was more so studying, doing homework."
They have been in the same classes since kindergarten.
When teachers suggested they separate, the sisters resisted.
"It's not that we're not independent," Melanie said." We're very independent. But just knowing that we have each other, it's very ... "
"Comforting," Melissa said, finishing her sister's sentence. "It's comforting knowing that you have your family behind you."
The sisters do almost everything together.
They both play violin and softball. Both speak French.
Every day, except for the night of their prom, they dress in the same clothes. On June 6, for example, both wore identical floral-print dresses with matching necklaces, hair bands and earrings.
The fraternal twins look so much alike that teachers would often seat them on opposite sides of the classroom to keep their identities straight.
Shana Benedict, an English teacher at Lansdowne High for the past five years, had the Biddingers as sophomores and seniors.
"They love to be together and they work very well off of each other," Benedict said,
That first year, Benedict had them sit on opposite sides of the classroom.
She relented during their senior year despite still not being able to tell them apart. She said she could only identify them by the fact that Melanie sat on the left and Melissa on the right.
She said another set of twins at the school prefers to take separate classes.
"They're a unique case in twins," she said of the Biddingers."I haven't seen something like it before.
"The Biddingers have always been extremely driven when it comes to school work," Benedict said. "They didn't allow anything to get in their way."
The twins earned A's in each class during their high school career and had less than .1 point separated their final GPAs, they said.
During their four years at Lansdowne, there were a few tense moments when one would score a bit higher than the other.
"Maybe one test I might score a little lower," Melissa said. "Usually the next test, Melanie would score a little lower."
"It wasn't intentional. It wasn't, 'I'm going to score lower so I can be on the same wavelength as Melissa.'," Melanie said. "It would always happen that way."
In the fall, the twins will attend the Catonsville campus of the Community College of Baltimore County on scholarship.
They plan to transfer to theUniversity of Maryland, Baltimore County, and later teach in elementary school.
Melissa plans to become a kindergarten teacher and Melanie a fifth-grade teacher.
Despite receiving scholarship offers from so many schools that they don't remember them all, the twins decided to stay close to home and family.
Sometime in the fall or even next spring, spring, those family ties will become even stronger. Older sister Michelle Biddinger, 22, a mortuary science student in her final year at CCBC, hopes she can have the opportunity to take a class with her younger sisters.
"We're very close. We've always been close. We've always been supportive of each other," the eldest sister said. "I always said I would love to be their triplet."
If all goes according to plan after college, Melanie and Melissa will end up teaching at the same school.
"You can't always be choosy with the way things are, but we'd really like to try to get in the same school," Melanie said. "Just knowing that my sister's down the hall or in the next area is just something we'd always like to do."
Considering how closely they worked to get the top grades at Lansdowne High, it's no surprise the pair took turns reading their valedictory address about putting mistakes in the past and planning but not too much.
When they read the closing line, like most everything in their lives so far, they did it together.