I’m Thankful My Mother Had a Second Child

‘They told me to have two,’ the battle cry of my childhood, rather sums it all up.

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, “Two Girls (Childhood Idyll),” 1900
William-Adolphe Bouguereau, “Two Girls (Childhood Idyll),” 1900 (photo: Public Domain)

“They told me to have two,” my mother would yell, as she chased my sister and me around the house. “They said they’d play together!” 

Actually, we did play together, but we also fought bitterly from the moment my mother brought me home from the hospital, and my big sister nibbled on my finger. We battled over board games with the loser stomping away. We quibbled over sharing a piece of cake, finally establishing a rule that one sister could wield the knife, while the other got first choice on the “half.” We even held each other’s stuffed dogs hostage. 

I always thank God for the gift of life. You see, despite her relatives urging her to have another child, the doctors warned my mom it would be dangerous — but I’m happy to say she ignored them. Without this miraculous gift, I would have missed so much. The games, the cake and the joy of hauling around my stuffed dog, so beloved that by the time I was in sixth grade, he’d lost all his fur.

I also thank God for the gift of faith, which I later threw aside. I was born into a Catholic family, but our beliefs weren’t deeply instilled in us. We went to Mass on Sunday and my parents sent their girls to Catholic schools, but when I went to college, the atheistic professors were so convincing that I left Jesus behind.

The writer Flannery O'Connor wrote to a young man in college, who feared he was losing his faith. She said faith is a gift that must be cultivated. “For every book you read that is anti-Christian … read one that presents the other side of the picture,” she advised. I wish I’d known about her suggestion during my college years, when my bookshelves were laden with tomes by nihilists.

Third, I thank God for never giving up on me, despite my straying from Catholicism. G.K. Chesterton described the mechanism that God uses to draw us back as an “unseen hook and an invisible line which is long enough to let (a person) wander until the ends of the world, and still to bring him back with a twitch upon the thread.”

God is subtle and doesn’t force himself on us, but we must be sensitive to the slight tugs on our line. One tug for me was the natural world, especially when my late husband and I went boating in the Gulf of Mexico.

Whose hand was regulating the tides? Whose hand had placed the sun and moon in their proper places? My childhood faith was still buried inside, and it was slowly coming awake again. One day, we threw anchor and were having lunch, when two curious manatees rose from the deep and peered into our eyes. My immediate response was that I had glimpsed one of God’s creatures — a surprising reaction for an atheist.

I heartily agree with C.S. Lewis, who joked that atheists can’t be too careful about what they read, since open Bibles are everywhere. You see, another twitch upon the thread for me was reading the Gospels, which I’d never done in my youth. Anyone who strays away from God can expect many “twitches upon the thread,” because God wants us back. Still, we were created with free will, so we can accept or deny the invitation. How wonderful that God is a persistent lover.

God has showered so many gifts upon us. Our lives, our faith, his undying love for us. As the psalmist writes, “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good. His mercy endures forever.”

“They told me to have two,” the battle cry of my childhood, rather sums it all up. My mom thought it was her relatives’ advice that led her to have that second child. But in my opinion, I’d say it was God with his merciful love, tugging at her heartstrings.

An apartment building stands damaged after a Russian attack in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.

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