Today my little sister turns 40. According to her birth certificate, her name is Mary Elizabeth but I don’t think I’ve ever called her that in her life. She was born when I was 4 years old and was named after my great-grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Pence. My parents immediately began thinking up nicknames so they wouldn’t have to call her Mary Elizabeth or Mary which, when paired with our last name of Johnson, was too boring. Baby Beth, Mary Liz and Liz Beth were all suggested but the name I loved, Ralph, was the one that stuck. You see, I was an impressionable young child who loved to watch Green Acres. Any of you who watched the show may remember the “brothers” who did work around the house. One was a girl and her name was Ralph, hence the nickname. The name stuck and it’s now become so common in our family that we don’t think about yelling it out in public (where we’ve received some funny looks).
I didn’t want a sister and I wonder if the male nickname was because I secretly desired a brother. Actually, I wanted an older brother but my mother explained that it would never happen because I had been born first. When Ralph came home from the hospital I was underwhelmed. My initial thought was that I didn’t want her touching my stuff. That thought lasted for many, many years and were the basis to many fights. I think I even asked my mom when she was going to leave. She never did, and I’m really glad of that now.
When Ralph was about 2-3 years old (mom will confirm the age), she and I went to the mall with my mom and our aunt, Susie. Somehow Ralph got away and was lost for a short period of time. I remember how upset mom and Susie were and I tearfully declared that I really loved her. Of course, that has never been forgotten but it’s so true. I really love my sister.
Today she’s a wonderful mom to two of the cutest kids I know. She is also my best friend and I enjoy spending time with her and her family and chatting with her on the phone which we do weekly. Happy Birthday Ralph. I love you!