The bond of sisterhood

by Carolyn Ishee

Are you a sister? Do you have a sister? If so, how tight or how loose are those bonds of sisterhood?

Three sisters — identical triplets — recently celebrated a milestone birthday — together, of course. Spouses, children and other family members helped the triplets celebrate their 50th birthday with a grand celebration.

Three daughters were born to Lois Raglin and Leroy McIntosh on Jan. 10, 1965, at University Hospital (now University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences-UAMS). The couple was expecting twins, and just when the doctor thought he was done delivering the second baby, the third child announced her arrival. The babies were delivered approximately five minutes apart, and each weighed 4 pounds and 8 ounces.

Attending nurses helped to name the triplet girls: Maxine, Mabeline and Maudeen. However, in the excitement of the delivery and before the names could be decided, the girls were tagged A, B and C. The youngest, Maudeen, is still called CeCe.

The triplets are the youngest girls of nine children born to Raglin and McIntosh. But they aren’t the only triplets in the extended family. A cousin of Lois also had triplet girls, but they aren’t identical.

When asked, Mabeline said the triplets never tried to trick anyone with switched identities because the girls/women know that there are people who can’t tell them apart. So, they don’t make matters worse. However, one unintentional confusion was created when all three triplets, unbeknownst to each other, stopped at the very same Exxon station to refuel all on the same day. Mabeline, the last to fill up her car, was asked by the attendant how many cars she had. When she asked him to describe the cars, she laughingly told him her identical sisters had been there.

“Maxine is the diva, CeCe is the flirt and I’m the mother figure,” Mabeline said. She married first, at age 19, to Michael Hansberry who is pastor at First Baptist Church in Wrightsville. She was the first to have children — hence the mothering moniker.

Younger triplet CeCe agrees with Mabeline’s descriptions. And she also has some insight into being one of three. “As the youngest triplet sibling, I must say the greatest benefit is that Maxine and Mabeline have carried me all the way. Still to this day, they try to keep up, calling to know where I’m at and with whom.” However, she added the biggest challenge to being a triplet is “the two against one challenge.”

Growing up a triplet presented its own fashion issues. The girls often found outfits they all liked, but there would only be two, not three, versions available.

So, how did they prepare for the 50th birthday celebration? Because they couldn’t decide on one outfit, the initial decision was to find their own outfits. But, Mabeline said she was shopping and found an outfit they all ended up liking. Purchases were made and they debuted the outfits, “looking like the Supremes.”

The Milestone Birthday Celebration, planned and implemented by spouses and children, was held Jan. 9 at the Arkansas Enterprises for the Developmentally Disabled Multipurpose Center in Little Rock.

The sisters today are closer than ever. Mabeline says they talk on the phone often; there is a full family gathering for a Sunday meal after church, and holidays are family affairs. Food preparation is a planning effort that would be envied by any caterer. Assignments are made and dishes are prepared. Each sister has a dish that is her traditional one to prepare; sometimes, two may make the same dish without any prior discussion. It’s just something triplets do.

Maxine Torrence lives in North Little Rock and works as a certified coder for UAMS. Mabeline is a benefits analyst for the City of Little Rock and lives in Wrightsville. Maudeen (CeCe) lives in Little Rock and works at UAMS as a service desk representative. The three have not strayed far from their birth location.

“You always have someone to support you — always a support system,” Mabeline said. She emphasized the impact and importance of not only sisters, but of a family. “Family is everything.”

CeCe added, “I am thankful for many things in life. However, the greatest blessing is our family bond.”