Originally published in The Record, Goshen College’s student newspaper.
Ask Mary, Elise and Jenna Ramseyer what it’s like to be a triplet, and they might not know how to answer.
“We don’t know what it’s like to not be a triplet!” said Jenna.
Said Mary, “It’s normal…for us!”
The triplets from Wooster, Ohio, are juniors at Goshen College this year, and though they share many similarities, they have unique personalities and different majors. Elise believes that their individual interests became evident when they were young. One example was Christmas 1996.
Before this day, their parents were dedicated to making sure each gift they gave the girls was exactly the same.
“[Our mom] would count the jelly beans and make sure that we had the same color of M&M’s in our Easter eggs,” said Mary.
But this Christmas, each girl’s gift was geared towards her own interests.
“I had a fancy little sequined dress and high heels,” said Elise. “Mary got a little magnetic word board and Jenna got a mini-cleaning set.”
Elise said their mother felt bad giving Jenna a mop for Christmas, but “she was the happiest kid you have ever seen on Christmas. It’s not that Jenna says, ‘Wow, I can’t wait to go clean the apartment,’ but she still loves getting things done.”
Though individualized, these gifts didn’t exactly foreshadow the Ramseyers’ career paths: Jenna is a business major and both Mary and Elise are in the nursing program. Because of their shared major, Mary and Elise take the same classes, which can be both good and bad.
“We got a test back last week,” Mary said, “and our prof told us, ‘If you guys weren’t related, I would have thought you cheated.’ We looked and we literally did answer all the questions the same.”
But being Goshen students has allowed them to have their own experiences, too. During the summer, Jenna traveled in Europe and Elise and Mary completed Study-Service Term (SST) in Nicaragua and Peru, respectively. This was the longest they had ever been separated from one another.
In fact, Mary was surprised to realize during the summer of 2013 when she returned home alone from Camp Friedenswald that she had never spent the night without at least one of her sisters. So SST was, to the triplets, what many students experience when they first come to college and are separated from their families. But SST was very different—the Ramseyers had extremely limited contact with one another.
Elise believes that homesickness was more linked to missing her sisters.
“I got a weird feeling of fear when I realized there would be things that they would never know about me, things that I would completely forget to tell them,’’ Elise said.
Some of their adventures will have to stay untold because the Ramseyers cannot read each other’s thoughts using triplet telepathy. They are asked this question frequently, and it’s one of the more annoying things about being a triplet. Sometimes they go along with it, acting as if they read their sisters’ thoughts all the time.
Though the Ramseyers don’t hear their sisters’ voices in their heads, some people may accidentally get the idea that they are schizophrenic.
“We talk in plural form,” Mary said, simply by habit. When introducing herself to someone new on SST, Mary would often say, “We’re from Ohio.”
Jenna, too, slips up sometimes. “I always say, ‘We’ll see you later!’” Jenna said.
While the Ramseyers lived in different rooms in the dorms, they still lived on the same floor. Now in the student apartments, they live in the same unit, one of their last opportunities to do so before the end of their college careers. Afterward, they aren’t sure where they’ll end up. “Ideally, we have talked about how we would want to be able to live close,” said Elise.
Through their experiences at Goshen College, both together and apart, the Ramseyers have grown to appreciate their unique relationship even more.
“It made us realize how much we appreciate each other and really do love being together,” Elise said.
– By Mia Engle