My Sister’s Diary



Union Square, 10011

Neighborhood: Chelsea

I was sitting on the floor of my older sister’s East Village apartment helping her pack up her things, when I found her diary. 

She was in the kitchen wrapping plates and bowls in newspaper, so I thought I’d take a break out of eyesight and read a few pages.  I went up the steel ladder to her tiny lofted bed.

Now it’s not like I found her super top-secret up-to-the-minute diary. 

She doesn’t have one of those. 

She does, however, have a little red book with a plastic laminate cover and a picture of a Yorkshire Terrier chasing a bouncing ball inside a tartan outline. 

It was the diary that our babysitter gave to her when the babysitter left to go to college.  My sister was in the sixth grade then. 

The great thing about reading through the diary was that my sister never actually kept at it.  She never had the patience.  So most of the entries were the result of certain John Hughes-movie worthy teeny bopper traumatic moments in her life where for some reason she was left in her room and needed solitude, either self-imposed or because she was grounded. 

There are only about 20 pages with any writing on them at all.  The entries are sporadic.  One for every few months. 

From her awkward adolescence, to a change in high schools, through her born-again Christianity phase, and up until junior year of high school.

“Dear Diary, So Kristen got this for me, and wow, it’s like I feel really old because my babysitter is going away to college, and I think mom and dad will let me babysit John from now on.”

“Dear Diary, I am in love with Ryan S___!!!”

“Dear Diary, I hate dad so much.  Argh!  He won’t let me go out tonight. Everyone is going to Putt-Putt.  They’re probably at Denny’s by now.  Dad doesn’t even know that I’m like the best one of all my friends.  I don’t even drink or smoke.”

“Dear Diary, I don’t know.  I just talked to Emily, and she might be pregnant.  It’s really scary, and I haven’t even been hanging out with her very much in the past year, which is sad.  I’m going to be praying for her at bible study tonight.”

“Dear Diary, Why do I have to study for the SAT’s?!?”

The diary was such a treasure of embarrassment.  I had the urge to show it to my sister almost immediately upon reading the first entry, but I knew that she would take it from me as soon as she found out I had it, so I decided to be sure to read through it all before coming down from the loft to make fun of her.  Then I had to reread my favorite ones before I was ready.

“Look what I found.”  I started to read one of the adolescent ones out loud. 

My sister was a good sport about it, and laughed.

“Here, stop doing that!”  But of course, I kept reading, walking away from her outstretched hand. 

Finally she had me cornered, crouching on the floor, and smashed into a grocery bag full of socks and sweaters, with her fingernails dug deep into my wrists before I let go.

“Owww!  Dude.  Stop it.  Here, fine.  I don’t see what the big deal is.”

“You’re a jerk.”

When I was born my sister wanted my parents to throw me down a creek.  A few years later she was chasing me around the dinner table with a pushpin, after I snotty-younger-brother dared her, “You want me to shut up?  Make me.” 

But we ended up becoming best friends.  I was the first person she told about her first period—complete with an underwear inspection, just to make sure (a whole other totally awesome story). 

And later this summer, I’m going to be the person of honor at her wedding.

My sister is moving out of her apartment on 11th Street and 2nd Avenue because she’s getting married and moving in with her fiancée, Chris, to his apartment on the Upper East Side.  It’s a predictable transition. 

When she started out in New York, she was living in Brooklyn, but she was always working her inner-yuppie.  There were little things I noticed through her New York transition.  From her food snobbery: she wouldn’t take a bite from a sandwich I got at a corner bodega.  “It’s sketchy.”  To her book reading tastes: she forced me to read The Nanny Diaries.  I said, “You only like the book because you’re afraid you’re going to become Mrs. X.”

“Shut up.”

“Don’t worry, it’s what Nanny’s afraid of too.  She’ll get married and move to the Upper East with Harvard Hottie—just like you.”

Later that afternoon, after moving the boxes, I sat in a white leather chair in Chris’ air-conditioned apartment sipping a Brooklyn IPA and watching cable. 

“John, I’m the biggest loser in the world,”  Chris said. He was lying on his matching long white leather couch reading wedding magazines in his boxers and a Polo Golf shirt.  Both of us were sweaty from trucking in the boxes on those big luggage carts.  A bag from Barnes and Noble full of more bible-thickness bridal magazines lay on their table. 

“Judy, what color flowers should we have?” 

We were killing time for before dinner with my parents.

Our parents took us out to eat at one of the Union Square area restaurants.  They came out from Ohio to take the personal things that Judy won’t be moving into her new apartment back to Dayton.

“Hey, are mom and dad taking your diary?”

“Shut up.”  I started quoting entries from her diary right there at the table.

“Dear Diary…”  An especially embarrassing one from her born-again virginity fixation phase.  She screamed.  She screamed as loud as she could.  Someone was clearly ruining dinner, so I stopped to make her stop.

“Don’t do that, Mom said,  “We all know what Judy used to be like.”

The next morning I had brunch with my parents, and my mom dropped the bomb:

“If you think Judy’s diary is funny, I have something even more embarrassing to her.” 

Before Judy moved to New York, she had stuff from college shipped home in much this same manner, stuffing it in a car for my parents to take back to Ohio.  Mixed in with her portfolio of charcoal drawings were Judy and Chris’ first love letters from when they were long distance dating right after meeting in Korea.

“Where are they?”

“At home.”

“And you read through all of them?”


“Are they hilarious?”


“Give me the best one.”

“There is one from early on, and she writes in her broken, beginner Korean something like, ‘When looking into the sky at night and see the moon and star and think of our love.’”

And we all smiled.

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