Sunlight arrived first, followed by Moonbeam. Both summer babies, they were born a little over two years apart. I envisioned for them days of laughter and nights of sharing secrets, and (someday) grown up girls who were friends.
How was I to know then that my vision was just a dream?
As a child, I had five sisters with whom to play, and I imagined my girls would have as much fun playing together as we did.
People who knew us and watched us grow up said they had never seen a group of sisters who were so alike and yet so different. Our mother didn’t try to make us become more alike; she allowed us to be different and enjoyed the kaleidoscope of our personalities. So naturally I assumed that if I ever had girls, they’d be like us: varying shades of pink.
When Dave and I started our family, I figured our offspring would have a childhood like mine: days filled with the rich texture of creative playing and blending of varied hues.
I didn’t mind having three boys in a row. I grew accustomed to days filled with rambunctious noises and snips-and-snails-and-puppy-dog-tails, awash in a spectrum of blue. With each pregnancy, it didn’t matter to me what sex our baby would be.
I just wished for healthy children who would grow up to love Jesus and have fun together as they swirled rainbow after rainbow of fun.
Then when Sunlight, our fourth child and first daughter joined our family, I was tickled pink.
Maybe, just maybe she would one day have a sister. My sisters and I fought our way through childhood days but also made wonderful memories playing together. I wanted our little princess to have as much fun as we did growing up together.
Two years later when another baby was on the way, I thought perhaps my dream would come true. After all, how could I raise my little girl without a sister? I wasn’t sure I’d know how to do that.
And I wished, just this once, for another tint of pink to add to our palette.
So the day my doctor did an ultrasound to make sure it was safe for me to travel, and asked me if I wanted to know what sex this child was, I said yes.
Never mind that Dave and I had always chosen not to know ahead of time because we wanted to experience the surprise of finding blue or pink at the end the rainbow.
Never mind that all four children were in the exam room because we were heading to a friend’s pool after this visit.
Never mind they might pick up on the lingo and spill the paint.
For the first time in any pregnancy, I wanted to know.
Dr. Ward scanned my abdomen, looked at the monitor, and said quietly, “Think pink.”
“Are you sure?!” I asked, elated.
To answer, he pointed to the screen and named the female parts of this unborn child.
All afternoon, I hugged the sugar-n-spice secret to myself. This was before the days of cell phones and texting, so I didn’t have a chance to talk to Dave until he came home for supper amid the clamor of kids.
Around the supper table that evening, I told Dave about the ultrasound.
“I know the secret, and I’ll tell you if you want to know. But I promise not to say another word if you don’t want to know.”
“Sure,” he said, eyeing the children as we passed food around the table, “but not now!”
I couldn’t wait. “Think pink,” I said, grinning.
Dave wasn’t convinced. We knew too many people who had painted a nursery pink only to come home with a little-boy-blue.
Still, I was convinced because I had seen that ultrasound.
We didn’t tell anybody that we knew, and carried visions of everything-nice in our hearts while we waited.
The boys were oblivious as I laundered pink dresses and stock-piled little girl onesies. Less than a month later, little Moonbeam appeared.
Petite and tiny, she was as dark as her sister was fair.
Oh sure, they liked to play with dolls and have play school, or play church. They liked to color, have their hair combed in different styles, and wear new clothes.
Oh yes, they spent many hours of fun playing together and imitating others. Yet even then, each girl’s swatch held its own distinct colors.
The older they became, the more visible were their differences. Yes, they both carried the X chromosome. But that is pretty much where the similarities stopped. We talked about it a few months ago, sitting in a restaurant out of town.
“You can count on one hand the ways we are alike,” said Sunlight, daring us to prove her wrong.
Moonbeam grinned across the table, first at her, then at us.
I hadn’t pondered that thought much because I knew it wouldn’t change the way they were designed. But when I had to answer the question, I realized how much they were both right.
For once, they agreed!
We found a few ways: they have the same parents and the same brothers.
Both carry the recessive blue-eye gene (but then, so does one of their brothers).
Of our half-dozen, they are the only ones who wear glasses. I admit that it was hard coming up with other similarities.
“You both like to read,” I said, knowing exactly what was coming next.
Sure. Sunlight enjoys mystery, novels, and fiction. Moonbeam likes history, animal stories, and love stories.
They enjoy videos. Sunlight likes detective, suspense, and comedy episodes. Moonbeam watches historical features, love stories, and family shows.
As a child, Sunlight’s countenance disappeared behind clouds with a mere look from her father, and obedience was usually instant.
Moonbeam defied in word and in deed, often stomping her foot and spouting words to emphasize her refusal to obey – thus spending hours in time out.
Both enjoy music. As children, Sunlight played flute, and Moonbeam played clarinet. Their taste of music is varied although there are genres about which they now agree.
While Sunlight is able to mend if necessary, Moonbeam designed and made her own quilt when she was nine. It’s true that she had some help from an aunt, and the quilt was hand-quilted by cousins and bound by another senior friend. But the design and piecing of the quilt was done by Moonbeam herself.
Sunlight likes to cook but hates to hang out laundry. Moonbeam likes to clean and do laundry but does not like to cook.
Sunlight likes babies and small children; Moonbeam relates well with young cousins and older kids.
Sunlight is disciplined and can get up early in the morning even if she’s been up late. Sunlight likes to watch movies as she falls asleep.
Moonbeam needs a lot of sleep and stays up until all hours of the night, falling asleep with several open books on her bed, and then wants to sleep in come morning.
They both like to shop but would never wear each other’s clothes because their tastes are so different (unless we’re talking Virginia Tech clothing). Even if they shared the same tastes, difference in size prohibits sharing of clothing.
Moonbeam never wears shoes unless she has to and walked barefoot at her high school graduation.
Sunlight was appalled at her sister’s bare feet on the platform as she gave her graduation speech; she likes to wear heels and be proper even though she enjoys sporting sandals and flip flops.
Moonbeam hates to be cold; Sunlight is usually hot and sleeps with the AC on high or a fan blowing in her face.
Sunlight is daring. Skydiving, snowboarding and donating blood regularly are accomplished feats. Moonbeam is cautious.
Moonbeam wouldn’t think of spending her money on skydiving and admits a sense of relief that she does not weigh enough to donate blood.
Sunlight thinks the speed limit is posted for the lowest speed one should go. In the first week after Moonbeam received her driving permit, she had to pull over to allow cars to pass her because she barely kept the speedometer at speed limit.
In the past year, however, Moonbeam has navigated her way across hundreds of miles in Virginia without any trouble at all.
When the three of us travel anywhere, Sunlight takes the wheel. When it’s just Moonbeam and me, I’m the driver.
Sunlight is my navigator, introducing me to new shops and new flavors.
Moonbeam keeps me tuned to new people and ideas through new authors, books, and web sites.
Sunlight beams gently, providing warmth and compassion to those who are lonely.
Moonbeam is fiercely loyal once she knows someone well but tends to hide her compassion behind clouds.
Both of them are hoarders, but when it is time to dispose of items, they differ.
Sunlight keeps cards, tags, and receipts from trips and events with friends. She willingly disposes of toys and teddies once special to her.
Moonbeam keeps cards, pictures, notes, awards, and memorabilia from travels and special occasions. Moonbeam refuses to allow her childhood Tigger to be gifted or sold.
Sunlight is bored with genealogy and who is related to whom. Moonbeam will read family history books in order to learn more about the families from which she hails. She visits readily with older people who can answer questions about her genealogy.
Career pursuits are at opposite ends of the spectrum: physical therapy vs. agriculture sciences and a minor in history. Neither has an understanding of the interest of the other in career choice; yet in this case, Sunlight is following her mother’s side of the family and Moonbeam follows her father’s.
In relating as a family, Moonbeam favors her mother’s side of the family; and Sunlight favors her father’s.
Moonbeam thinks like her mother and has difficulty seeing humor in family jokes that she does not consider funny. She is nostalgic and hates to leave friends behind when she moves on to new avenues.
Sunlight has always held her own with her brothers and cracks jokes with the best of them, and unless it’s in your genes, you just don’t get it. Their humor is one of a kind.
When both of them are home, I enjoy their blending of hues, making quite a team.
My laundry and cleaning is done without complaint by Moonbeam. The kitchen, complete with meal preparation, is kept stocked and cleaned by Sunlight.
When I need computer or internet assistance, I ask Sunlight.
When I’m looking for something I’ve misplaced, Moonbeam will know exactly where it is.
While I have always practiced having these gals do things in which they don’t excel or don’t like to do, I also know who is quicker to respond to which need – and I utilize that as well.
We’ve spent time talking about the mosaic of their personalities. We’ve made conscious decisions to enable those personalities to blend into the tapestry of our family.
A year ago we did a long-distance Bible study for three months. From a dorm, an apartment, and home, we met via Skype on a bi-weekly basis. For once, they agreed on a topic, and we connected long distance. For once, discussions didn’t take us down random roads, leaving one frustrated with the other. After all these years, it finally happened.
It’s been quite a twenty-year ride, being their mom. Our girls were right. They are more different than they are alike.
When the obstetrician said, “Think pink,” that’s about as close as it got.
I’m grateful that there are many shades of pink, for otherwise, I would surely be bored.
Some shades are vivid, vibrant, and intense. Others are delicate, serene, and tender.
I’m okay with that because I know the One who designed the entire spectrum of pink. I also know that He makes no mistakes. In His massive canvas of life, He never has to correct mistakes or begin over.
Each color, each shade, and each hue adds a different flavor to our family and our world.
They will always be sisters. One day, I believe, they will become best of friends.
When I think of being a mom to girls, I no longer just think pink.
I envision cherry blossom, fuchsia, raspberry, magenta, cerise, flamingo, ruby, strawberry, and rose.
I think of contrasts: light and dark, rich and pastel.
And I am grateful that, in our family, we have been able to experience and enjoy the varied contrast of textures.
We’ve also been touched by the unique and diverse shades of pink.