Meet the Arla Sisters

Meet the Arla Sisters

“I really hope this doesn’t offend you,” the lady from New York wrote, “but I think the fact you and your sisters are named Karla, Sharla, Marla and Darla is HILARIOUS!”

“Yeah, we think it’s hilarious too,” was my reply. “Hi-larious.”

Actually, it is. Well, maybe not hilarious, although I could see how someone from New York would think so. Having rhyming names does come in handy for those “Let’s share something about ourselves with the group” situations that seminar leaders are so fond of. Sometimes it becomes the subject of discussion.

“Hello. My name is Karla, and I have three sisters, Marla, Sharla and Darla,” (the sound of amused murmuring.) “Our middle names kind of rhyme too. Karla Jo, Marla Jan, Sharla Nan and Darla DeAnn.” (Louder murmuring, gasps of incredulity and outright laughter, followed by, The Questions.)

Are y’all twins?

No we aren’t.  We aren’t even quadruplets.

Did your Mother plan it that way?

Amazingly enough, she did. As a child, growing up in an ordinary family with unimaginative non-rhyming names such as Gladys, Mary, Marie and Louise, she dreamed of one day having four daughters, spaced two-to-three years apart, and giving them names so unique and wonderful that they’d never struggle to come up with an ice-breaker at a party! And so, she did.

She had seen the name Karla somewhere (probably in a novel condensed by Reader’s Digest) and thought it sounded “interesting.”

Jo was the name of her favorite character in Little Women, and my father’s best friend’s name was Joe Bill, so she named her first daughter Karla Jo.

When her second daughter was born, she saw the name “Marla,” thought it was  unique. Plus, it rhymed with Karla. Karla Jo, Marla Jan. How cute!

Sharla probably received her name simply because it rhymed with the other two. In fact, my mother probably just made the name up.

Mother faltered a little with the fourth and final “arla.” Enamored of the name “Deanna,” she wanted to give it to her fourth daughter, if indeed, the fourth baby turned out to be a girl.

My father intervened. “You’ve gone this far with it, you can’t quit now,” he told my mother. “If three of them rhyme and the fourth one doesn’t, she’ll feel left out.”

Quite an astute observation coming from someone who always spelled my name with a “C.” But I digress.

So the fourth daughter was named Darla DeAnn. The last of the rhyming Whiteheads.

What if your parents had had a boy?

My dad says he would have named him Willie. Willie Whitehead. I think he was kidding. Let’s hope so.

What if your parents had had a fifth daughter?

The suffix, “arla” can be applied to many consonants producing an endless variety of names. In the event that we were ever to appear as characters in a daytime drama, my sisters and I came up with rhyming names for our evil twins — Garla, Harla, Smarla and Tarla.

Are there any benefits to having rhyming names?

Well, in addition to the sheer entertainment value, as children, when my mother called one of us to come do some unpleasant chore, we had a good excuse for not paying attention to her, i.e., “I didn’t come because I thought you said ‘Marla’.”

Unfortunately,  my mother, a very clever woman, outsmarted us by occasionally rewarding the one who finally responded with something good, say, a candy bar or a new package of crayons. I learned a lot of good mothering tricks from her.

Our names are also a good memory game that friends, relatives and even perfect strangers never seem to tire of playing. “Sharla, Marla, Karla, Darla  … No wait. Don’t tell me! I want to see if I can get them in order.” Bonus points were awarded for reciting the first and middle names correctly.

Did your mother ever get your names mixed up?

Everyone gets our names mixed up. WE get our names mixed up. I don’t know how many sentences I’ve started with “Dar … I mean Mar … I mean SHARla …” Very frustrating.

And then there are conversations such as this. “Hello, my name is Karla DeLuca, I’m here to pick up a gift that my sister, Marla, ordered for our sister, Darla.”

Blank stare from sales clerk, then “You’ve got sisters named Marla and Darla?”

“Well, yes, and another sister named Sharla, but I’m in a hurry and…”

“Are y’all twins?”



Alphabet Soup

  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1 and 1/2 cup water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 3 ounces alphabetini pasta


In a large saucepan, bring broth and water to a boil. Add bay leaves, onion, carrot and garlic. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add chicken, cook and stir until golden brown.

Add chicken and pasta to soup; simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, or until pasta is cooked. Remove bay leaves before serving.

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