#12 Sisters

My sister’s name is Nina.

She was born sixteen months after me and we were tight from the beginning. When my parents brought her home from the hospital I couldn’t stop marveling at her thick chock of black hair, tiny smudge of a nose, and tightly closed eyes.

We traveled together a lot from those early ages. Now, our family never went anywhere too exotic – leaving elephant safaris, ancient trail hikes, and exotic reef dives for other families – but we did cover our fair share of the Northwestern, uh, quadrisphere of the Earth. Yes, we owned that quadrisphere. It was like our quadrisphere.

For a long time we rented a cottage for a week every summer. One big year we splurged and went to Disneyworld and then another year we went on on a Caribbean cruise. And we always did it together. The four of us. As a family.

Vacations as a kid were a bit of a mixed blessing. You got to spend time with the fam, catch up on your Fear Street novels, and master the art of calling trump in Euchre with a Queen and a Ten. But you also left your friends, your Nintendo, and the safety and stability of Life Back Home. The world didn’t seem as small when we were kids so traveling – for me at least – was a bit daunting.

Fortunately, I always had Nina. Some of my fondest memories growing up together were on these trips – sharing John Grisham novels, talking day and night, and inventing games to kill time like ‘Who Can Do the Best Brother Love impression?”

At the cottage Nina shuffleboarded and threw horseshoes with me – games which, I’m pretty sure, wouldn’t have been much fun on my own. That wasn’t it though: Nina also encouraged me to swim, which is not my strongest suit. I was afraid of fish touching my legs and she’d front crawl to the dock way out in the lake, encouraging me to make my way out there as well. I can still remember my five, six, seven year old kid sister helping me learn to swim. There are photos of us building sandcastles, fishing with twigs and string, and cheering my mom from the dock as she tried water skiing.

At Disneyworld Nina encouraged me to go on some of the “moving” rides, since all I was prepared to do was play mini-golf and talk to the Funnel Cake Guy about his business model. Nina never said she was sick of hanging out with me, even if I forced her to play chess on my Traveling Chess Board or quiz me on Blue Jays trivia. She was always there, always supportive, always up for anything.

On the cruise ship, Nina accompanied me to the casino, when as pre-teens we gambled on international waters and walked away with a cool thirty bucks in slot machine winnings. She was more than my partner and alibi in that heinous crime — later dubbed as Ocean’s 2 by Interpol.

She was my friend.

Nowadays all these far-off vacations, long drives up north, and full days with each other aren’t really gone to me — they’ve just grown from Things I Did Last Summer into reasons I am who I am.

Another thing about Nina is that she’s got a huge heart. Hey, life is short, after all. We live, we die, we give it our best shot. Life is a lucky little marble of a thing and Nina enjoys it fully. When you’re around someone so into life, so into putting a lot into life and taking a lot out of it, well…that makes your life sweeter. One of the best traits anybody can have is putting a lot in and taking a lot out. Their ability to live a big life. And Nina does, she sweetens life with her genuine nature, and her unrelenting love for it.

I mean, I can still remember…

Nina’s sixth birthday party! It was at our old house and she invited every single kid in her class. Every single kid! There were thirty sweaty, corduroy-wrapped knee-highs with side parts and drippy noses running around the house. At this birthday party, against all pleas for sanity, Nina ordered a giant bubble gum ice cream cake from Baskin Robbins. I can still see all the kids, in their best clothes, running around screaming, with bright pink Bubble ice cream smeared across their faces… and our furniture and walls.

That Big On Life attitude also came out at school when she ran for Vice President of Student Council and hired me as her Campaign Manager. Well, we ran a gutsy campaign that made people think. And Nina nailed the speech – dressing up, putting on a show, and getting the whole school rolling with laughter. Well, she lost the Vice-Presidency by four votes, but seeing how she gracefully handled defeat and seeing her go on stage inspired me.

That’s a little bit about my sister but I know you’ve got your stories, too.

So let’s hear it today for sisters!

Whether they’re older sister, younger, or maybe a girlfriend who just feels supertight, there’s so much beauty in those connections, memories, and long lives lived together. From setting up skits in basements to inventing new languages to knocking secret codes on bedroom walls … well, sisters are with us from the beginning and sisters know us best through it all.


The Book of (Even More) Awesome is now out in paperback! Buy it on Indigo, Amazon, or Barnes&Noble.

Photos from: here, here, and here

70 thoughts on “#12 Sisters

  1. What a lovely tribute to your sister and that pic of you two is adorable!

    I am sooo loving this post because I have the best big sister ever! My sissy is my rock, my best friend, my biggest cheerleader. She’s always there when I need her. Lots of love for my big sissy and all sisters everywhere!

    1. That pic IS adorable!

      However, I’ve got to say – there seems to be a pretty big discrepancy in your ideas of proper attire for washing the car.. Nina seemed to be going for “baby prom chic”, while you went distinctly more.. uh… “man on an Italian beach” in your speedo and sandals..

      LOVE IT!

        1. LOL, Freddo!!
          I do think my mom has a similar picture of me and one of my older brothers. Of course I think he has more clothes on!

  2. It made me chuckle that you included a Euchre reference and the Wikipedia link to explain what it is! I’m from Iowa and grew up playing the game, but I’ve found that even with people from the other side of the state it can be a hit-or-miss with whether they have heard of it or not!

    And yes, I agree-having a sister is awesome :o)

    1. Euchre is the best!

      I spent a summer at nerd camp once, and must have spent at least half of my time at camp playing a Euchre tournament (first one to 100 games!).. it was awesome..

    2. +1 for Euchre! You need to be from very specific pockets of the northwest hemisphere to know your left bower (or bar?) from your right. Never trump your sister’s ace without a very good reason.

    3. It is mandatory to play Euchre if you go to a cottage. I laughed at the line about calling trump on a Queen and a ten! gusty move – hope your partner came through with a couple of tricks for you!

  3. This may be my favorite of all time. I have a twin sister and she’s 110% my best friend! It’ll be pretty hard to top this one! So Awesome!

  4. What a sweet post.. I have two amazing sisters, so I definitely relate to how great they can be!

    I remember how nice Nina was to help you out with your pre-order book offers with the Book of (even more) Awesome! It was only fair of you to dedicate such a high-up post to her! :)

    1. Hooray for Nina! So glad she gets a well-deserved shout-out on the list. You guys are blessed to have such a great sibling relationship. Hi Nina! You’re awesome!

  5. I think it would be lovely for your sister to do a post about brothers! I have a sister and a brother and everything you say about sisters might be true but there are just as many wonderful things about brothers.

    So I’m going to think of this one as #12 Siblings (unless Nina is going to do a Brothers post?)

    1. Yes! I have a sister and 2 brothers and they are all so awesome. I love my sister so much. And I have to say it is fun watching my teenagers as they brother and sister each other through life. One of my fav posts of all!!

      1. I have a brother too! I think this post speaks about all siblings, both sisters and brothers. My brother is one of the greatest people I know. Both sisters and brothers are totally awesome!

  6. both my sisters made my life hell on earth since the time I was born and nothing has made my life better than when they stopped speaking to me after Mom died. But lucky you, you got a good one! Remind yourself of that.

    1. Geez, Charles, that sounds like horrors straight out of Cinderella. That sucks. :( I’m sorry you’ve never experienced the awesomeness of sisters.

      But thanks for the reminder that we should all be grateful for the people who we love and who treat us with kindness.

      1. Yeah, sometimes life deals us a bad hand with family, but the great thing about friends is that you can choose them.

  7. Neil, you are coming out with some real tear-jerkers in this final countdown! What a beautiful post.

    And I couldn’t agree more. I would be lost with my big sister. Sisters definitely deserve this spot on the Awesome List. (:

    1. Growing up I always wished I had a sister.
      I hope my kids love each other as much as you and your sis and as much as Neil and his sis. I hope they stay close. Right now they are basically inseperable and I hope it stays that way.

      1. The early personalities that my kids showed me are still true now that they are 15 and 17. I also think that the close relationships stick for ever. Mine have little spats, but most of time one is calling the other…”Come see this!” or one is laughing and the other comes running “what is it?” followed by more laughter. Bekah, I think that if they love and respect each other as tots it will last a lifetime!

  8. Very nice post and I totally agree that sisters are awesome!
    I have a younger sis and she is really sweet and is my best friend!

    The picture of you and Nina is really sweet, Neil! :)

  9. Unfortunately, I don’t have a sister. I am surrounded by brothers. I have 2 older brothers, a step brother, and 3 younger brothers (2 of them are half brothers, but they’re still blood) I love them to death. We don’t talk that much anymore, though. I have a lot of mixed memories of them. My older brothers and I went through a hell of a lot together and I basically raised my younger brothers.
    I was just thinking the other day how I wish we were closer.
    I do however have an awesome best friend who I consider my sister. I’m close with her family and love them as my own. We’ve been through a lot and are still holding strong.

  10. I am LOVING that picture of you two! So cute. :)

    My sister is 21 months younger than I am and I relate to SO many of your memories! Although, sadly, I must admit that the closest she and I ever got to any kind of slot machine shenanigans was watching DJ and Stephanie Tanner hit the jackpot in Vegas on Full House.

    Any siblings, younger or older, are awesome in their own right — but I have to say, I think sisters are the best! I loved growing up with her, having her as an ally when my parents were being (seemingly) unfair, having her to share the chore load, having her to there to make up games to play (I have to say, for a while we were really into putting small stuffed animals on the blades of one of our ceiling fans and then catching them once we turned the fan on!), and having her there as we got older as a confidant and friend. As with almost all siblings, we have our moments where we all but hate each other, but those feelings are fleeting and pass quickly and with unspoken apologies and forgiveness. Great post, Neil — sisters are awesome indeed!

  11. Awesome pic indeed, Neil. I wonder if your sis has read this one yet.
    I was just trying to imagine the smile on her face while reading it :)
    Being an only child doesn’t seem so cool now. All my life I have been laughing at friends who are constantly ranting about their pestering siblings.
    Now I feel left out from all the fun.

  12. I was sixteen when my parents brought my sister over from China. I had been an only child, and everything about the first time I saw her is burned into my memory. I told her, back when she was four and afraid that if I ever had a baby of my own I wouldn’t love her as much anymore, that when I had a child, it would be my first son or daughter, but SHE is my first baby. I told her that I had waited my whole life for her, and nothing would ever change that love. She has grown up so incredible and tough and smart, and ADORES my two kids.

  13. I love my little sister! I can vividly remember a Saturday afternoon around Christmas when my parents were out, and we decided to decorate the entire house inside with lights and decorations.
    What we ended up with was a giant mess and a video of us dancing around the kitchen with pots on our heads.
    Being away at university has been hard – I miss her so much!
    Thank you for the wonderful post.

  14. I love my big sister who is passionate about everything she says and does. She is a dancer and a mom and you never have to worry aobut her hiding anything because she is honest about everything with everyone. She was my best friend growing up and we got into all kinds of trouble together. I also love my little sister who is an artist and a mom, who not only is devoted to her own four kids but also works at a school for disturbed children who have been kicked out of every other school. She is one of the best people I know and can out Pollyanna, Pollyanna. Both of them have big hearts and positive attitudes and they make my life awesome! Thanks Neil for the reminder to call them and let them know how wonderful they are!

  15. My sister is about 25 years older than me, so when I was a kid, she always took me shopping or to nice restaurants for lunch, and she made me feel like a grown-up. We still do it, and it’s a nice way to catch up :D

  16. This is awesome. :) My sister and I are really close, I love her in a way that I don’t love anyone else in my life. We have the same sense of humor and are constantly cracking each other up. I’m away at college right now, and I’m really looking forward to going home for Easter weekend to see my sister and the rest of my Awesome family. :)

    1. Also, a funny story: my parents told me that when they brought Allie home from the hospital I wacked her head and asked them to bring her back. Oh, three-year-olds with sibling rivalry. (She was ok, and I was scolded if anyone’s wondering) It’s funny that we turned out to be such great pals even after she (apparently) made such a poor first impression. :P

  17. Although my older sister and I get along, we aren’t close. I wish we were closer, but she’s not the type of person that wants to be close to any of her family. This post helped bring back fond memories of her. There were a lot of changes in our childhood (parents’ divorce, remarriages, multiple moves), but we were always there for each other. At times we felt like the two of us were our own little family.

  18. Awww… thats the sweetest thing, my older sister and I are a good pair since we are both smart and she is very creative and i help her get those awesome ideas onto paper. We (Sisters) all have teamwork and cooperation in our lives so much that sometimes we take it for granted. Love hearing most of us out there still remain in touch with those loving sisters of ours. :)

  19. I don’t have a sister. DX But Nina sounds awesome!!! Tell her she is SUPER cool!!!

  20. even with the 5 year gap (I’m older) my sister and I are super close. We make up silly dances to whatever song is on the radio and steal each others clothing even if it doesn’t quite fit yet. There is nothing better than a great sister, or brother for that matter. :)

  21. I have a sister 4 years older than me and despite the age gap we have always been close. When we were younger and used to fight a lot we made sure we say bygones to each other at night and never let the fight go on for more than a day. We used to have the weirdest rules when it came to physical fights. One such rule was – when in a deadlock situation where both of us had each others hair by fistfuls, we made sure we count to 3 and let go at the same time. So that way nobody is a loser for having let gone before the other does. I miss those days!!
    She is now married and stays far far away. We speak everyday but I still miss her a lot.
    Thanks to Neil for reminding me of how lucky I am…siblings are awesome!!

  22. I have a half-sister I’ve never met; considering all the teasing and “wet willys” I avoided, I’d say that’s a good thing!

  23. Awww this is such a sweet post!! My brother could learn a thing or too from this though….. must show him in the morning.

  24. I totally agree with Vanessa’s post – I don’t love anyone else in the whole world the way I love my sister (makes me cry happy tears to write this) – I’m so grateful to have her in my life, the secret silly songs we made up, the giggle fits, even the tough times with parents and me wanting to have ‘my own friends’ at the puberty stage -now we continue to be best friends and I’m so proud and honoured to be close by with how she moves through the world with her friends and the way she is raising her daughters to be as close as we are is the greatest thing to witness ever! love you sissy!!!!

  25. I absolutely love this, so heartwarming. I don’t have a sister (can I borrow Nina?), but I have an awesome best friend. Pretty sure your sister would be delighted to read this, and I’m guessing she’ll say you’re a great brother too :-)

  26. My sister and I were on those car trips across Canada, the trip to Disney World (as adults but still with our parents and then later with our father and our kids). We played together, fought together, weather the storms and reveled in the joys of life together. We went through her cancer together and I was there at the end. Now I carry a part of her with me always… not to mention that her ashes are still on the desk in my living room.

  27. I love this post. Neil, I was waiting for you to write one about Nina, and I knew you would because she truly is awesome. Not only is she an incredible sister, but an incredible friend as well.

  28. This is a beautiful tribute, and makes me feel honored to be someone’s big sister, you painted a perfect picture of what it meant to be just the two of you, looking out for each other and always finding something awesome to do. Great post.

  29. Sisters…Where to begin? My sister is 3 1/2 years my junior, with 2 beautiful children. In our youngest years, we were incredibly close. We were quite the pair, sharing the most random and hilarious shananigans. And then we grew up hard and quick and different. I was quiet and tried to be pleasant. I rode the waves instead of making them. My sister was loud and boisterous and very brave. She rode where the waves broke. She was not afraid to share her opinion, or to let someone know that their opinion wasn’t agreed with or welcome. She did some wild and crazy things, she did things that terrified me. And so our worlds veered wildly in separate directions, but I always had the urge to hold the world up for her, and she always had my back. Inevitably, our paths veered inward again. No matter how many times our lives shifted, we always came back. We share a philosophy: no body messes with blood. My sister and I share an intense urge to protect one another, and our bond runs deep even though our reaction to life has been so vastly different. The love I have for her is fierce. Today, she is a beautiful mother. She surprised me in the most pleasant and unexpected ways. Where there was once a rebellious, outspoken, defiant woman there is now a quiet and gentle nurturer. Even though she is several years younger, I admire her. I hope to be half the mother she is. Little sister, I love.

  30. I love this one. My older sister passed away 5 years ago as the result of an accident and I miss her every day. Reading how this post has a) made me miss her more and b) more thankful for the 25 years I got to spend with her. Thanks for the awesome ride, hoping you can find a way to continue spreading the awesomeness!

  31. Such a lovely post !.. I too have a sister who’s 13 months younger to me..i adore her like my own baby. Sisters are one of the closest friends one can have..they love you no matter what ! Truly awesome :)

  32. I have real sisters, foster sisters, step sisters and soul-sister friends too. I have daughters though, who are not that much younger than me. Who are like my sister best friends, since we pretty much “grew up together” and kept eachother safe and secure. We used to call ourselves the 3 Muskateers. My daughter’s breathed life into me and made me feel more loved than ever anyone did or has in my life! My daughters have supported me through everything adn believed in me when I couldn’t in myself!
    My daughter’s Melissa and Christina are definately top two on my soul-sister-best-kindred-friend list!

  33. My sister Nan was born on my birthday exactly one year to the date two days before christmas. She was a birthday present and christmas present both and the longest one I have ever had; BUT WE are not just sisters we are THE VERY BEST OF FRIENDS!!!!!!!!!!! I love her so much!! WE also share the tragedy of losing our mother at a very very young age all we had was each other pretty much our youth age years. But we always managed to make something good out of something bad we have shed alot of tears together and we have had a whole world of laughter, we are still just as tight if not even tighter when the two of us get together all we do is laugh at the things that seem to fall in our laps. we are always feeding off the other one. People here in Portland Or. where we live can`t believe how close to sisters are, but no matter who it is that decides to hang with us they are laughing just has hard as we are. I THANK GOD EVERY DAY FOR GIVING ME MY LITTLE SISTER!! I LOVE YOU NAN!!!

  34. Thank you for being my big Sis and my bestest friend in the whole wide world I love you so much and I thank god every day for blessing you in my life

  35. Now, I may be just 12 years old… but I understand the love of having a sister. I dedicate this comment to my younger sister, & my older sister. You’re both completely…

  36. Neil, love the pic of you and Nina on good ole’ Northgate. Love your message (positive) and bought the book. Hoping all is well. Your CoCo Beware buddy from way back. Natalie.

  37. Hey why sisters I have a cute little baby brother, I remember when my brother saved his pocket money and brought a birthday gift for me. We fite a lot and he tease me but when i am upset he just come and give me tight hug and I feel that whatever happens there is one person who will care for me always love u bro ,…thanks Neil i feel nice thinking about this and I am planning to go for snooker game with my bro like our old times.

  38. My sisters do nothing for me. They pay no attention to me…its like the start of frozen and I’m Anna.

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