Today call me julienancy.

Today call me julienancy.  It’s what I called myself when I first started school. I couldn’t remember life before my little sister. Couldn’t enjoy kindergarten without her there.  So I brought her with me.  At least in the name I wrote on my artwork, projects and papers.


People believed we were twins. We wore matching homemade Easter dresses, our hair arranged in white-blonde pigtails. We were sixteen months apart but she was TallForHerAge, the difference indiscernible by the time she could walk to school with me.

On our way once, a neighbor boy threw a rock that chipped my sister’s tooth instead of mine. I cried harder than she did as we helped each other home, both of us covered in tears. I can still see the line where her tooth was repaired; evidence of the day I knew I could make my sister cry, I could bruise her feelings and her skin, but no one else would be allowed to hurt her.


We shared secrets and clothing. Toys and inside jokes. I sought my parents’ attention, sucked the air from a room with my non-stop talking. Friends arrived to play House and I made Nancy be the dog. She grew taller than I did and when she defended herself, I would blame her. On nights when she was scared, she’d come to my room. And I would let her stay.

We sang songs in harmony so instinctive, it was eerie. We danced to Shaun Cassidy and ABBA. Begged for later bedtimes and designer jeans. She made friends wherever we went. I sat under a tree reading a book, mortified and shy. We were so alike but also jealous of each other’s differences. No one else could make us so angry; no one else could make us laugh so hard.


She was always more mature. Responsible and productive.  I was content to be a mess. Lazy and unreliable. We pushed each other’s buttons. On purpose.  Until I moved away to college and once again, she could not come with me.

So we wrote each other letters, missed each other fiercely. I put down my book and made new friends. She finally spoke at the dinner table and took risks. I assumed our separation was temporary. As brief as my solo trips to kindergarten when she awaited my return.

But my little sister was ready to take on life. She got married and had children. I moved home and eyed her empty bedroom. She moved on and made a new family. She could not take me with her.

Julie. And. Nancy.

For more than forty years, she has forgiven my mistakes, remained patient with my shortcomings. She celebrates my successes and roots for me unconditionally, while I do my best to be worthy of her support. We’re far from perfect. But when we fail, we help each other home; both of us covered in tears, the lines across our teeth visible to those close enough to see.

This past Sunday was the Surf City Half Marathon. It was also my sister’s birthday. I placed a card on the counter and left for the race with friends who were running, too.

She and my brother-in-law Randy arranged bagels and fruit on platters. Poured champagne and orange juice into crystal. When we racers returned with our stories and smiles, she hugged me. Sweat and all. Offered us cream cheese. Listened as I sucked the air from the room with my non-stop talking.

Then we raised our glasses to toast the day. Randy whispered to me, suggesting I begin a round of “Happy Birthday” for Nancy. She fixed us with a serious stare.

“Don’t,” she pleaded. “Please don’t.”

I didn’t.

So now? Here is my song for you, baby sister. My first, best friend.

I will sing for you always. Will take you with me wherever you want to go. I do not remember life before you, cannot imagine growing old if you’re not there.

Do you hear it? The same old eerie harmony we never could explain? Listen carefully. Our song echoes still. Across four decades of sibling rivalry and love.  Always playing in my heart.

And it’s called julienancy.


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79 thoughts on “Today call me julienancy.

  1. KLZ

    Oh, how I know this sister love.

    They never stop being so annoying and yet you can’t bear to let them be far.

  2. KLZ ~

    Yes. That says is it far more succinctly than I did. We drove each other crazy but couldn’t bear to be apart.

    So grateful to have a sister…

  3. Di

    I always wanted a sister and now you’ve nailed why. You are both so lucky to have each other.

  4. Thanks, Di ~

    You’ve embraced people around you who are like family. Friends who are like sisters.

    And yes, I am lucky.

    Because I have a sister and I also have you…

  5. Katie

    So with you on this one. I haven’t seen my sisters in over a year and it’s really getting to me!

    and I’m sad my daughter doesn’t have a sister. Not sad enough to have another baby mind you…

  6. As we age so goes our emotions and when I was reading your julienancy story you did bring a small tear to my eye. This ability along with your Erma Bomback Jr. wit is a fine combination. We look forward to seeing you and nancy on the 19th. Love ya,cousin Keith

  7. Allyson

    Awwwe, so sweet – made me tear up! What a beautiful birthday tribute! I feel so lucky to have just returned from a trip to Orlando to see my own sister.

  8. Katie ~

    I have definitely had moments where I wished my kids had same-gender siblings. My husband who had 3 sisters thought it would be great for Jack to have a brother. I have a hard time picturing Karly growing up without a sister.

    But my kids have a great bond. I can only hope that they love each other as much as the grow.

    More importantly, however, when are you coming back? I want to seeeee you! (I know. you were just here. but I can ask.)

  9. Awww, Keith.

    “Awe age, so do our emotions.” Still waiting to see what doesn’t grow as we age…

    So looking forward to seeing the family soon.

    Virtual hugs until then ~

  10. Ally ~

    Was thinking about you and your birthday when I wrote this yesterday. Hope your day is beautiful and that your year is even better.

    Thanks for your blog support. Means sooo much to me.

  11. This made me a little misty. My sister is eleven months younger, and the way our birthdays fall, there are three weeks of the year we are the same age. LOL She lives on one coast and I live on the other, which works well most of the time, but lately I’ve really been missing her. For all of the reasons you’ve described. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  12. NannyK

    Sitting here in a puddle of tears, awash with emotion, nostalgia, gratitude…. for my beautiful, talented, generous, reliable (although she would have people believe otherwise), funny as helll sister. Thanks for not drowning me in the backyard. Thanks for making up games with me in the backseat. Thanks for helping me home that morning with your hand held over my mouth (presumably to keep me from seeing the blood…not to keep me from getting a word in edgewise:-). Thanks for sharing my most important, beloved memories. You’ll always be my julie-poolie & I love you!!!

  13. Thanks, Donna ~

    Always look forward to your sweet, supportive comments.
    Now. Go see your sister. (and p.s. Your parents really had something going there, huh? 🙂 )

  14. Nanny K ~

    At least you weren’t on the treadmill at the gym reading My Sister’s Keeper. Nothing like the UglyCry in public…

    Love you little (tall) sis. Always.

  15. Lonny

    Love it. And I really hope I wasn’t the neighbor boy. I threw a few rocks in my day, but not usually at people.

  16. So sweet, Julie! You’re very lucky to have a relationship like that!

  17. Well, I’m typing this post through tears, at work, on my phone because I can’t wait until I get home. Your love and devotion to your sister is beautifully written. I have no siblings, But you’ve somehow encapsulated how I feel about having a sister in your post.

    You are both blessed!

  18. Nina ~

    Lucky for sure. Thanks so much. For coming here. For commenting. Your support is greatly appreciated…

  19. KariMarie ~

    You are the sweetest. Thanks for your kind words. I had hoped to be able to reach those who don’t have sisters.

    Glad to know I impacted you.

    Hugs to you, friend.

  20. Beautifully written. A quiet tribute. Makes me look extra forward to my weekend in L.A. with my sister in 3 weeks.

  21. Oh Leanne,

    How lovely that you’ll spend the weekend with her. My mother and her sister used to do weekends away with each other when I was younger. I always thought that was the greatest idea.

    But they live 8 hours away from each other and Nancy and I are only a little over an hour apart. We rarely make time to see each other, presuming we’re so close it will happen naturally.

    And then time gets in the way…

    So good for you for making it happen. And enjoy. For all of us!

  22. Lonny –

    You were NOT that neighbor boy. Not at all. And even if you had been, I’d forgive you. Because you’re a damn awesome adult.

    And I do so hope all our children have the same kind of bond…lives full of great, complicated memories.

    Lake Lindero was indeed a great place to grow up.
    Feeling lucky. Very lucky.

  23. I was such a lonely little girl and always wanted a sister. This post brings that longing back for me. Sigh.

  24. Donna Simpson Payne


    What a beautifully told story!! You are so lucky to share such a great bond with your sister.

    I feel so blessed to have such amazing sisters!! We often reminisce with eachother about our fantastic childhood and good old Lake Lindero days. I do have old Girl Scout photos of us and our Moms as leaders…… I may post one day (lol).

    Thanks for your blog…. it really makes me smile A LOT!!

    Have a great day!

  25. Emily Neumann

    Love it… knowing both you and Nancy is a gift to me. Great blog!

  26. Ms. Wasteland,

    Surely you have surrounded yourself with friends who are like siblings. But I will admit: there’s nothing like having a sister.

    My daughter has a brother; my son a sister. I hope they grow up loving each other. But a same-gender bond has to be different. An understanding that goes deep.

    I think everyone searches for connections like that in life and finds them in different places.

    I was lucky to find mine before I knew I didn’t have it.

  27. Donna ~

    How I love the memories of growing up in Lake Lindero. Can’t help but think we had it so good – and didn’t know it at the time!

    I do now, though. Oh do I ever. So glad to reconnect with friends who were there from the beginning. Who know the walk to Yerba Buena. Who have pictures of smiles with missing teeth and awkward hair.

    Thanks so much for your kind words and support of the blog, Donna. It means more to me than you know.

  28. Sweet Em ~

    Thanks so much…I always know you’re reading and it’s so nice to hear from you (did you catch “today call me arid”? That title was for you ;-))

    Sorry we missed you last weekend – a quick 24-hour turnaround.

    But next time, we’ll see you for sure.

    Because being with the Neumanns? Always a good time…xo

  29. This is absolutely beautiful.

    And the type of sibling love that I hope my boys one day have.

  30. Deb

    When I found out my second child was going to be another girl, I sobbed with joy and this is why. They are a little farther apart in age, but I can tell that they will grow up with the same kind of bond that you and Nancy have.

    Knowing Nancy makes this post all the sweeter. Please send her my best! Deb

  31. Shell ~

    Thanks so much for your kind words. From the small peeks I’ve had into your life, I can tell yours is a home filled with love, and one that will foster lifelong bonds.

    Wishing that for your boys, too.

  32. Deb ~

    Much love to you, sweet friend. And to your beautiful girls. And of course to the encomparable Marcus who will charm everyone into lifelong bonds…

    The Lopez family is full of love.

  33. This is the sister my daughter would love to have and reading this made me sad that we couldn’t give that to her. I guess it’s almost good that there’s one thing we can’t give her. Otherwise she’d be irreparably spoiled.

    I love this story. Perfect sisters. I’m jealous too!

  34. Joey ~

    We are far from perfect sisters. But we figured it out. I think however a family is comprised – one child, fifteen children (well….maybe not fifteen) same-gendered siblings or opposites – if the house is full of love, you’ll be okay.

    Some of my best best friends were only children. They found sisters amongst their friends. And that old cliche that you can’t pick your family? So true. I just got lucky.

    Thanks for your lovely comment ~ now, go spoil that daughter of yours. Irreparably 😉

  35. Courtney

    So – Jules I am finally here catching up on all the beauty that is you and is expressed through your fabulous writing … and I am laughing! I can’t even tell you how often I think about how we tortured and abused and ignored poor Nancy —and I feel all the guilt of karma or divine retribution or whatever you want to call it as I watch in horror and frustration while Peyton dishes it out to poor Cami. I console myself with how awesome and strong Nancy is and just hope that Cami too can laugh it all off someday rather than smother her beloved sister as she sleeps. But Cami already sees that as much as her big sister sometimes wishes she didn’t exist, she also won’t let anyone ELSE abuse her! I love this post — and it makes me miss you that much more. (Our lunch plans have to wait until the antibiotics kick in to remove the plague from my happy home…)

  36. Court ~

    I know. I made her play the dog. But we love each other anyway. And you’re so lucky your daughters have sisters.

    My girl? Will have to find a friend who is like a sister. Kind of like you.

    Lunch anytime. I’m there. XOXO

  37. I have a sister – we are 11 months apart. People think we are twins and then to top it off, my mother had twin boys and people think my mother has two sets of twins!

    My sister is my best friend and confidant. She knows whats in my bank account and what the deal is with me. I love it that way. Someone to share all the nitty gritty detail with.

    Love your blog 🙂

  38. Thanks so much, Blessing.

    So glad for me that you “get it.” So glad for you that do, too – Because that means you know what I know. About sisters.

    Nitty gritty is a great way to describe it. Best friend. Confidant. Yep. You get it.

  39. liz

    Having a sister who was OK with playing the dog is definitely a special one.

    How awesome that you and your sis have such a beautiful bond!

  40. Thanks, Liz.

    She wasn’t a gigantic chocolate dog, but she was pretty awesome just the same…

    Love that you came here. Hope I can keep making you laugh at your own blog 😉

  41. Ah Sistahs are the best. My sister is 49 weeks older than me, that just puts her 49 weeks closer to 50. Ha!

  42. Mrs. Tuna,

    First of all, how did you mother not go insane? Second, I applaud your positive outlook on aging.

    I’m sure your sister is making it look good for you in the DISTANT future…

    But still. It’s better to be younger 😉

    Thanks for visiting. You always make me smile.

  43. This is so beautiful and lovely it gave me goosebumps, I liked it that much.
    I’m the youngest of 4 sisters but they were grown and out of the house before I knew them- it was more like having little mothers when we did spend time together. I envy this type of sister relationship and wish it more then anything for my daughters.

  44. Oh, Lydia,

    Thank you so much for your kind words. And I have read some of your posts – your motherhood is fostering that kind of bond for your daughters. I’m sure of it.

    Your girls are lucky. And so are we.

  45. I love sisters.

    I have 3. 1 am extremely close to and depend on.

    the other one, I do like her company.

    then there is the oldest, miss bossy pants, always telling me what to do and how to do it and why i’m doing it wrong and how I need to do it like this and why it should be done like this..

    and the sibling roles NEVER change.

  46. Alexandra ~

    I try to remember that there are no guarantees with sibling relationships – that just because I have one son and one daughter doesn’t mean they are doomed to not know the joys of being close to each other.

    Some siblings will be close. Others never will connect.

    I’m aiming for close with mine. Fostering it with everything I have.

    And even then? They’ll be on their own.

    Thanks for visiting here. You made me smile. And want to go put on my hoop earrings…

  47. I meandered this way via Ironic Mom – loved this so much I had to send it to my sisters (I’m lucky enough to have two, one on each side). Thanks for sharing a very big piece of your heart!

  48. Dear Julie:

    I just found out about you from Iconic Mom, who so rocks.

    And now I see that rockin’ moms do have rockin’ friends.

    And as an English teacher on sabbatical finishing a book, I soooo don’t miss grading right now. And I just wanted to tell you that this is a orgeous piece of writing. And your sister is so lucky. For the first time in my life, I soooo wish I had a sister. (No offense, bro.) If you get a moment, come jog over to “Lessons From Teachers and Twits” and browse around. Sometimes I’m a teacher, but usually I’m the chief twit in residence. Can’t wait to read more of your stuff!


  49. Ohhh, this crushed my heart with its beauty. I know, exactly. I have three sisters and we are one, always. It doesn’t matter the miles or the years, their is that sisterly primal cord that binds us to one another, where we know each other’s words before we speak them. We are all different and yet, the same. I had someone tell me once that they felt left out, when we are all together. They hurried to say they didn’t feel slighted and they certainly knew it wasn’t intentional on our part. They were saying the kinship between us is so close that it’s almost like twins with their own language. We just are and have always been sisters of the very best kind.

    So absolutely beautiful.

  50. Okay Meet the Buttrams –

    I’m going to have to hop over to your blog to get your first name because I can’t keep typing that in a greeting!

    Love IM. She’s awesome. And I’m so glad you found me through her.
    I’m also happy you sent to your sisters. It was my secret hope when I wrote this that, besides being a gift for her, it might be shared amongst other sisters.

    So thank you. Very much.

  51. Renee ~

    Thank you for your kind words. But are you really an English teacher on sabbatical writing a book, too? Because then must’ve been separated at birth. Perhaps I’m your SECRET sister you don’t know about yet (sorry again to your bro’).

    Will definitely check out your blog. And I, too, think Ironic Mom rocks. When I saw her tag line for the first time – If you can’t laugh at yourself, laugh at your kids – I pretty much fell out of my chair.

    Then I got insanely jealous she thought of that before I did.

    That’s why she’s so stylish…

  52. Joann ~

    I hope you know by now how much those words meant to me. I have loved you since I first read your blog. And saw pictures of your wine cellar. And enjoyed your links to Bono. And. And. And.

    I’m so glad you enjoyed this post. I wrote it as a gift to my sister, but was hoping it would reach others who’ve been blessed with such a bond.

    Thanks for all of your blog support and for just being so damn awesome.

  53. wow. This makes me yearn for a sister. And sad that my daughter will never have one.

    Lovely, lovely post, Julienancy.

    (BTW: there are an AWFUL lot of comments here for someone professing to have comment envy! 🙂

  54. Gigi ~

    Thanks for your sweet words – and for your support (saw you give a shout out last week and REALLY appreciate it).

    I up the comment factor by ALWAYS commenting back. So divide by two and it’s a little more realistic.

    Still. I love my feedback. The nicest people come here. Starting with you…

  55. My two daughters love one another. They stick up for one another against outside enemies. Many people mistake them for twins, even thought to me? They look little alike.

    And my younger daughter has a good inch a half advantage on her older shorter sister.

    They are so different from one another. So incredibly different.

    They are connected, but they view one another with surprise at times.



    I hope for them the same kind of grown-up connection you have with your sister. I do so like that vision of my daughters’ futures. So very much.

    Thank you for sending me to this post.

    It’s lovely.

  56. nannyk

    I have come back to read this everyday since you posted it. To cry, to revel in its exquisite truth, to lament the passing of our childhood and celebrate its memory. I would bet that Mom & Dad return daily too. I read the latest comments, so thrilled to know that others are pickin’ up what you’re puttin’ down :-). I love love love our song. you are amazing!

  57. Nanny K ~

    Thanks. For all of it.



  58. Kris,

    So glad you came here. So grateful you found it lovely.

    I wish all sisters could be this lucky.

    Reading your words, I feel like I’ve come to know Maj and Kallan after such a short period of time.

    I wish this for them. I do.

  59. Can not stop crying! Thanks again for that! You have made me miss my sisters dearly, but you also have reminded me of how lucky I am to have gained a sister like you! Thanks Bill!

  60. This really is so great. I really appreciate your effort for incorporating this list. Thanks for sharing. keep it up

  61. This totally made me cry, Julie. My sister and I are six years apart but we were born on the same day – New Year’s Eve. We have completely different lives but when we are together it’s total ridiculous laughter and I know she will always be in my corner.

    I am very sad my own daughter is sandwiched between two boys and will never know the joy – and pain – of having a sister.

    Thank you for sharing this. It was lovely.

  62. Linda –

    Never thought I’d be lucky enough to end up with four sisters…

    So yes. Thanks, Bill. I am lucky times four because of him.

  63. Cheryl ~

    I would never trade having a son and a daughter – but a part of me is sad that neither of my children will know the closeness of a same-gender sibling.

    Still. I hear stories of same-gendered sibs who were not close. Who did not enjoy each other or benefit from their relationship.

    And all the goodness of “siblingness” my kids have in spades.

    I’ve seen your three sandwiched in loving pictures. They have it, too.

    So our girls don’t have sisters. But they’ve got plenty of love.

    Lucky, lucky us.

  64. CDG

    I have a younger brother, too much younger to bond with in such a way, not when we were children.

    Now that we are grown? We are not close in the traditional sense, but there is always the knwoledge that he is there.

  65. CDG ~

    Thanks for visiting here and for commenting. Loved your post for TRDC. Loved.

  66. Oh, now you have me verklempt. Just a beautiful, beautiful tribute to your sister. So glad to have found you.

  67. Pamela ~

    Thanks for coming here…Loved your post today. Will be back to your blog for sure.

    Appreciate the kind words very much. And? I love the word “verklempt.”


  68. This is so beautiful. What a wonderful sister love you share.

  69. What a lovely testament to sibling love. It brought tears to my eyes and made me think both of my little brother and also of my two little boys. Thank you. (And happy belated birthday to your little sister!)

  70. Miri ~-

    Thank you so much. Yes, I am very lucky in my sister love 😉

    And speaking of love, just saw the name of your blog: Life After Push…

    Love that. So much. Can’t wait to spend a little time there.

    Thank you for visiting here.

  71. Lois ~

    Thanks so much for your kind words and your support. I was really hoping other people could relate to this post, even though it was directed toward my sister.

    Cheers to sibling love. And cheers to you…

  72. NannyK

    Still coming back….anytime I need a good, ugly cry!! Miss u julie poolie!!

  73. Cindy

    I cannot find a way to email you privately, so I guess I will just post it for the world to see. I remember julienancy. And i remember Calabasas (the cat)-or was his real name Pumpkin? I remember two little blonde girls playing softball with their mom and dad nearby. I remember finding that dad of yours many years later who told me you were going to have a baby girl. Turns out she was born very tiny and I had newborn clothes that my few week old daughter just grew out of- so i sent them to you-That means Karli is going to be 12 soon, Katie turns 12 May 30th. Do you remember?

    Julienancy also had/has a dad that loved to talk about the calm, collected, easy daughter (that would not be you Julie!) and the little heliant that drove him crazy and was causing him to get gray hair (that one would be you Julie). And in those years your dad was amazing. Besides my father and my husband, he is the greatest man I have ever known. Without even trying (or so it seemed) he taught me lessons about life, love and happiness. He also taught me about Preciosa and Andres Caballero. I still think of him almost every day…I have tried my hand at teaching and I would always think, “How would Mr. C. do this?” Many a year later I marvel at his accomplishments during those years. I’m still not sure how he could be the teacher/coach he was and still raise two wonderful daughters (he did always compliment your mother on that) My kids have heard endless stories about spanish, the orange chevy van, golf at Westlake, lemonade…

    You’d think with all the social networking, your family would not be hard to find. But Jim or Diane Christianson is a pretty common name. And I knew there was you and Nancy but couldn’t remember your married names save my life. I see they have moved from Westlake to Palm Desert and have gone to China (or there is some other Jim and Diane Christianson that live in Palm Desert that went to China?) I think of him on his birthday every year in April. I would really like to reconnect with him. So could you PLEASE let him know my email address? I’m also on Facebook (Cindy Angus Dale) and occasionally check my twitter account (fastpitch blue). Your blog is wonderful, you are a very talented writer and I have enjoyed reading the few posts I have gotten a chance to read. After all, it is 2 in the morning…looking for your dad is what I do a lot late at night when I can’t sleep. I’ve learned at our ages (well maybe not yours, but mine and his) that things can change quickly-and a person near and dear to you one day may be gone the next. And I want to say to you and your sister- thanks for sharing your dad with so many of us. I know I am not the only one whose life he touched and I am sure he continues to do so in retirement. Although I never really saw your mom that often, your dad aways spoke very highly of her and I do remember her at your softball games. (I umpired them). It sounds like your family is doing well…thanks again,
    Cindy Angus Dale

  74. Lauraleigh

    You write beautifully. I enjoyed this ever so much.

  75. Awwww. How sweet! Happy Birthday! I wish I had a sister.

  76. Oh boy did you make me cry with this one. Maybe even more so because I have met Nancy and adore her as much as I do you. This is quite possibly one of the most beautiful articles I have ever read. xoxo

  77. I love this and not just because my name is Nancy and I am the little sister. BTW I’m bingeing an Australian drama called “Offspring” that you might love, about a 30-something woman and her family/love life, and the relationship that she has with her sister is just amazing and entertaining and I can’t get enough of it.


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