Double Blessing


It all began when Annie was just six years old. One early August morning, Cousin Golda came skipping barefoot through the red sand to our house.

“Guess what!” she panted, “we’ve got two new babies, and one of them is a brother.”

“Twins!” Mama exclaimed, setting the milk pans on the kitchen table.

Happily Golda nodded. “A brother and a sister!”

Mama stooped and hugged Golda.

“Oh Mama, can we go see them?” Annie pleaded.

“Later,” Mama replied.

“How come Aunt Mary has two babies?” four-year-old Kate asked.

“Because it’s a ‘double blessing.’ That’s what Grandma always says,” Golda replied. “Especially if one of them is a brother. Now I’ve told you, I have to hurry home.” The screen door slammed behind her.

Papa came in with a foaming bucket of milk and strained it into the pans Mama had set out. “You should have seen Lew this morning,” he said. “His feet scarcely touched the ground. He didn’t bother to open the pasture gate, but jumped the fence to tell me about his son. ‘Mary has a baby boy!’ he hollered.”

“Mary has twins,” Mama corrected.

“Yes, I know. But one of them is a boy,” Papa stressed.

Annie wondered if Papa had something in his eyes, because he blinked as he said, “I’m glad for Lew. It’s important for a man to have sons.”

“I know,” Mama said, turning her face toward the cupboard.

Poor Mama, Annie thought, all she has is girls, three of them, counting Baby Mildred. A hundred times over Papa had said, “If we had sons of our own, I wouldn’t always be borrowing Ren’s boys to ride the range with me.”

Mama’s usual retort was, “Be thankful you have nephews.”

For the next few days Papa had so much to say about Lew’s son that it was plain to see that he was eating his heart out for a boy of his own.

“After all, George,” Mama finally reminded him, “we have to leave some things up to Heavenly Father.”

One day just when Annie had begun to think Papa didn’t care for girls at all, Mildred toddled over to him and wrapped her chubby arms around his legs. With a hearty laugh, he picked her up and tossed her to the ceiling. “Ah, you’re a precious one,” he crooned. “Little girls bring joy to a man’s heart.”

Well! What a relief! Annie thought.

Mama had said they could see the babies later, and later had finally come. How cuddly the twins looked, sleeping side by side in the wide new cradle Uncle Lew had built.

Fascinated, Annie and Kate gazed at them while Golda stood proudly by.

“Oh, aren’t they cute,” Annie purred.

“The one with the most hair is my brother,” Golda volunteered.

“They don’t either one have hair,” Kate observed.

“Yes, they do,” Golda countered. “See that little bit of pink hair?” Golda pointed.

“He’s a boy.”

“Why is a boy so much?” Kate asked.

“Because boys don’t get scared of the dark,” Annie replied.

“But the baby sister is the cutest,” Kate insisted.

Aunt Mary chuckled from her stack of pillows.

“They’re both the cutest. Two babies are twice as cute as one,” Annie defended.

The baby girl squirmed.

“Would you like to rock the cradle, Annie?” Aunt Mary asked.

“Oh yes,” she said, beaming. Gently she rocked, then remarked, “I love them and I wish we had twins just like them.”

“Papa only wants a boy,” Kate observed.

At the supper table that evening, Annie and Kate prattled on about the twins.

“Do all baby boys have pink hair?” Kate asked.

“No,” Mama replied. “Aunt Mary’s little boy has white hair. But it looks pink because his head shines through.”

“Oh,” Kate said, satisfied. Then, after a moment, “Do boys always tease? When he grows up will Aunt Mary’s boy tease like my cousin Cliff does?”

“Maybe Cliff did put a beetle in your mud pie once, but he made a water-willow whistle for you too,” Papa reminded her.

Thoughtfully she said, “I like my whistle. I think maybe we’ll have a brother too.”

Chuckling, Papa patted her head, then went out to do the chores.

Annie and Kate sat on the front steps in the gathering dusk, while sleepy birds twittered in the mulberry tree.

“Kate, shall we surprise Mama and Papa?” Annie asked.

“How?”

“Let’s ask Heavenly Father to send us twins like he did to Aunt Mary and Uncle Lew—a girl and a boy.”

“All Papa wants is a brother,” Kate said glumly. “We’ve already got a little sister.”

“But Mildred doesn’t look little anymore. Think what a big surprise it would be if we had twins.”

“Especially the boy part,” Kate giggled.

That night as they knelt by their bed, Annie prayed first. “Dear Heavenly Father,” she said, “Papa wants a boy so bad. Please bless us with a baby brother. And, also, could you send us a little sister too. We want twins just like Aunt Mary’s. Thank you for Papa, Mama, Grandma, my sisters, and my happy home. We will take good care of the twins. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen. Now, Kate, you pray.”

So, for the days, weeks, and months that followed, Annie and Kate faithfully prayed in secret for the big surprise for Papa and Mama. In Kate’s mind the deadline for the twins to arrive was Christmas. When they did not come then, she was very disappointed.

“But you got a rag doll and some cookies. That’s plenty,” Annie comforted.

“From now on, I’m only asking for a brother,” Kate said decisively. “A brother can help carry water from the barrel like Cliff does.”

“Well, I’ll still keep praying for a really big surprise,” Annie emphasized.

Springtime brought a problem. The family moved to the sawmill on Kolob Mountain, and Kate decided to put off praying for a brother until they moved back to town for the winter. “Heavenly Father would have a hard time finding our little one-room cabin and tent among the pines,” she reasoned.

But Annie said, “I’ll tell Him where we are.” And she did.

July was more than halfway gone. The hammering, hollow sound of a woodpecker in the ponderosa by the tent awoke Annie. It was barely daylight, still everyone was up and busy except her and her two sisters. She knew, from the smell of wood smoke curling from the cabin chimney, that the cracked wheat for breakfast would already be simmering. The music of the dawn was sweet contentment to her as she listened to the rush, then the hush of the wind in the pines. Mingled with the jubilant chirp of the robin and the cheeping of the wrens was the ring of Papa’s axe, chopping firewood. Through the open tent flap, she saw the bracken ferns and larkspurs waving in the breeze.

Slipping quietly out of bed, she walked out into the morning, barefoot, holding her long nightgown above the trampled meadow grass. A squirrel chattered from his perch in an oak, and wild roses fluttered delicately pink by the door. Heaven seemed to kiss the earth. Surely, this must be a special day.

“Well now, how’s my little early bird? Papa asked, approaching with his armload of wood. “I’ll bet you can’t guess what a big surprise we have for you!”

Annie’s heart leaped. “Mama has twins,” she declared.

Papa stopped with astonishment. “How in the world did you guess?”

Breathlessly she opened the door and rushed inside. There sat Grandma in front of the warm oven with a tiny baby on her lap.

“Come and see your brother, Annie,” she said.

“Oh, baby brother,” Annie cooed, “I knew you’d find us.” Then scanning the dark shadows of the cabin, she asked, “Where is our baby sister?”

“Who said there was a sister?” Papa teased.

By now Annie’s eyes were accustomed to the dimness and she spied the bunk bed. With a bound, she was at Mama’s side. There, nestled snug against her was another baby.

“Oh Mama, what a tiny, cute sister.”

Everybody looked at everyone.

Tenderly Annie said, “We prayed a long, long time for this big surprise. Kate just asked for a brother, but I kept praying for twins like Aunt Mary’s. We knew how surprised and happy you’d be.”

Amazed, Grandma shook her head, and her voice choked as she said, “The simple and perfect faith of a little child!”

Papa blinked his eyes, the same as he did when Uncle Lew’s son was born. Only this time he couldn’t blink fast enough to keep the tears from falling. “It’s a miracle,” he said softly.

Annie slid into the empty chair next to Grandma. “May I hold him please?”

Gently Grandma laid the tiny bundle in her arms. Papa picked up the baby from the bed and put her in Annie’s arms too. Softly Annie cooed as she rubbed her cheek against each little silken head. With a face as radiant as that of an angel, she whispered, “Oh you sweet, sweet little double blessing.”

And that’s how I happened to be a twin, for I was that baby girl.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Phyllis Luch