October 15, 1984 12:00 PM

Born one year and eight days apart, the Britt sisters, Jody, now 19, and Mimi, 18, grew up crisscrossing each other’s footsteps. Their father, Jim, an only child, watched his daughters’ developing closeness with both fascination and awe. A professional photographer who lives with his actress wife, Melendy, in Burbank, Calif., he used his camera to chronicle their growing-up experiences and two years ago put together an album for Jody and Mimi. On receiving their gift, the sisters, now both in college, burst into tears, and it is easy to understand why. Being more than documents of school plays and pillow fights, their father’s photographs illuminate a continuing bond of kinship from the time the girls were cuddly toddlers until they finally emerged as the teenage beauties they have become.

I’ve always called Jody the grinner,” says Jim Britt. “She’s more outgoing and verbal than her sister. Mimi is more reserved and internalizes everything. Throughout their lives the girls have been referred to as ‘the sisters.’ They enjoy working together as a team. In a grammar school production of Snow White they played the leads. It was perfect casting. Jody loved being the princess and Mimi loved being the wicked queen. The picture [bottom left] of Jody with her arm around Mimi is one of my favorites. For me it says it all about the close bond between sisters. I didn’t pose them together like that. Jody just automatically put a protective arm around Mimi. It was the natural order of things. She was the ‘big sister.’ That meant always being one step ahead and breaking ground for Mimi—for all the good and bad things that means. Once when they were very young, a bully was intimidating Mimi. Jody went up to him and said, ‘Don’t you ever touch my sister.’ The pride shining in Mimi’s eyes was absolutely incredible.”

Mimi started out taking ballet lessons while Jody took up riding. Then Mimi decided she wanted to ride, too. It was a great experience for both of them. Horses remained their great love, even when they got older and started going out with boys. Both won show championships and had their share of spills and defeats. Their personalities were reflected in their riding styles. Mimi was more determined, Jody was a freer spirit on horseback. They were competitive but in a nurturing way. They were always each other’s best friend. That doesn’t mean they didn’t get mad at each other. Mimi was the stronger fighter, more closed off and adamant. Jody was more willing to negotiate. Their fights could be explosive but were usually over quickly. The girls would end up hugging and giggling and raiding the icebox together. They taught me how to argue and still love somebody.”

As I flip through all my pictures I see an incredible closeness between Jody and Mimi that never changes. That’s why I gave them the album. I wanted them to see that. It’s an indefinable thing that goes way beyond all petty jealousies and differences. It’s a bond that’s very strong and special. I’m really grateful I had the experience of being their father. But I’m not sad they’re no longer young. The growing-up process seemed so natural. In the closing picture Jody and Mimi no longer look like little girls. They are women, grown up and on their way. I think they are well prepared. I can’t wait to see what happens to them next.”

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