Tuesday, 1 June 2010


My dad recently sent me an email saying, "Justine says Hi Ate I miss you, I love you and I want you to stay here forever.  I don't want you to go away....come here soon....."

One of the hardest parts about being away from home is being away from my 6 year old sister, Justine (My brother Aidan too, but that's for another post). She is joy - pure joy in tiny little human being form. And I'm not just saying this because she's my sister, she's got plenty of glowing reviews from everyone she meets.

Her forte is boy advice: "The trick to make a boy like you is buying him lots of toys. If he doesn't like toys, then you can buy him t-shirts." Truer words have never been spoken.

I wrote this a long time ago:


My entire family knew before I did—aunts, grandparents, second cousins twice removed. And me, my dad’s only daughter, the one that lived with him for four years after the divorce, was the last to know.

The baby was due in a month.

More changes were to come. My home - the one I happily called my own when I was eight, where I played dress-up and danced bare feet across my back yard - was sold to a shady looking business man who wanted all of our curtains for free.

And then she came: my half sister, swaddled in cloth, staring back at me with her alien eyes.

It was real now; she was here, like a porcelain doll in flesh and bone. Tiny hands held my fingers with such certainty, the newborn with an iron grip.

I cradled and rocked her back and forth; I told her stories and sang her songs. Justine, with coal black hair and rainbows in her eyes, looked mischievous when she smiled. Justine, who smelled like peaches and jellybeans, never ate anything green. Justine, my sister, needed me like I needed her.

She was a sweetheart, a terror; the little girl with hair that fell in her face, who followed me around like a shadow during all my visits home. She drew landscapes on paper and painted portraits on carpets and on the walls.

Justine dressed herself in printed tights and frilly skirts, hid nail polish and lip-gloss in her pink backpack, and cut her own hair with safety scissors under the dining room table.

When an ex-boyfriend broke my heart, her tiny hands wiped the tears from my eyes; and when she scraped her knee on the sidewalk, I wiped hers.

It was true love with her, the girl who wanted to be exactly like me in every way - even when I didn’t want to be like me at all.

At 23, I was to start anew. The airport was my first step towards a new life in London, a fresh start in fashion journalism, a struggle to be independent. I was burdened with two suitcases and a pile of student loans; uncertainty and apprehension; hesitation and excitement. Big leaps reap bigger rewards.

Only I was too scared to jump.

I felt the tears well up in my eyes, saying ‘So long,’ to my best friends, ‘Arrivederci,’ to my family, ‘See you soon,’ to a city I knew so well. And my sister, my darling sister, with all her three-and-a-half year old wisdom, hugged me close and told me she’d miss me.

Justine, who married princes in tablecloth gowns, feasted on plastic French fries and fake ice cream. Justine, who knew the words to all my favourite songs, was the hardest one to leave.

“Here,” she handed me her prized possession, a small pink bear. It was her lifetime companion, a confidante of cotton stuffing and fake fur. I smiled but declined.

“She’ll take care of you,” she said.

With wide-eyes and hands covered in marker, Justine loved me more than her very favourite toy. She was my half sister, my hero in pink overalls. But half means never complete: half empty, half hearted, half finished. Half full.

Save for Justine; that was never her. She’s my sister--entirely whole.

I'll leave you with some photos and a funny little video:

If you don't read any of this, fair enough, but you won't regret watching this video:

Justine from mari on Vimeo.


Anonymous said...

aww... mari, that was beautiful! and she's sooo cute!


Anonymous said...

*sniff sniff* love it :) she's adorable.

joseph said...

hey saved the best photo for last huh!? can you come back already? it'll give me a reason to hang out with justine and see if she still has my pin...


mari said...

Thanks you guyses.

Mirz, speaking of cute, how is Kyla 7 already?? I still remember her being born and singing Britney to her ... which I am sure affected her positively in some way. Haha.

Joseph, I wish. Maybe you can orchestrate some sort of fundraiser.

Anne said...

awww too cute for words <3

boo said...

I read it all and it's so beautifully written. I sometimes wish I had a sister or a brother. The pictures, especially the last one, are amazing. And the video is awesome too. I like this post very much.

Caroline said...

You both are very cute playing together. I had the same expirience when I was 12. My dad was separated from my mom and he got his girlfriend pregnant. Than everything changed, my dad and my mom got back together and the crazy lady raised my sister like to be like her. Not a very decent woman. I do have contact with my sister, but we are not good friends, sadly. Now she is 16, with a very weird boyfriend much older than she, and he got another girl pregnant just a few months before start dating my sister. Hope that she doesn't make the same stupid thing. As for you, take care of your sis while she is still a child, and teach her to always be a good girl. This world is getting too wild and is our duty to look for the young ones. I regret deeply that I couldn't do much for mine. Too late now. She never listen to me.
I loved your blog by the way.
Lot's of love.

mari said...

Boo, thanks, you're too sweet, I'm glad you liked the post. I was an only child too for a long time, so I know the feeling of wanting a brother/sister well...It was actually quite a shocking experience when I first found out, but my brother and sister do bring me so much joy - you can borrow them sometime ;)

Caroline, thank you, I'm glad you like the blog. Sorry to hear about your sister, that sounds rough. 16 is still quite young though - hopefully she is going through a phase and will realize that she does need her big sister in her life.

I hope I will always remain close with and have some sort of positive effect on my sister, despite living on different continents!

Edyta Knapinska said...

OK, you're cute but I gotta say that - Justine is cuter; a bit like a mini version of you! :-)
Oh well, what can I say? 'Enjoy your sister this summer' - I guess ;-)