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 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!
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.