To My Sisters

How good are you at remembering birthdays?  I am crap.  This is well known in my family and generally forgiven.  At least, I think it’s forgiven.  If not, all my siblings have years of forgotten birthdays accumulating grief and despair at my continual failure to do anything to acknowledge their birthdays.

Once, in high school, I even forgot my own birthday.  I remember the occasion well because a sister came running after me, shouting something as I strode off down our street, towards the park and creek, towards the train station, off to school.  I was in a white polyester blouse with a stupid maroon and blue tie and an even stupider polyester navy skirt with four sets of pleats and stupidest of all black stockings.  Most ridiculous, Brisbane inappropriate school uniform, ever.

“Oanh! Haven’t you forgotten something?” Big sis yelled from our home’s verandah.

I paused.  I took stock.  School bag weighing down shoulders? Check.  Stupid tie? Check.  Stupid badge on tie? Check.  Lunch in bag? Check.

I looked down at my feet. For some unfathomable reason, I wasn’t wearing shoes.  Just black stockings.

I turned around and trudged back home, calculating how quickly I could put on shoes and get to the train station.  My sister watched me walking back, wondering why my shoulders were slumped so morosely.

“What’s up with you?” Big Sis demanded.

I looked at her funny: scrunched up eyes, one eyebrow raised, chin tucked into my chest.  After all, she was the one who called me back because I wasn’t wearing shoes.  Words being too much, I pointed at my be-stockinged feet.

“What? You want new shoes for your birthday? Too bad. We only have money to give you, as always.”

“Huh?” (This was the most eloquent, poetic thing I could think to say.)

“Happy birthday, you idiot!”


Email makes things much, much easier.  Many of my siblings have contiguous or near-contiguous birthdays. (You would think that would make it easier for me to remember their birthdays, but, nope, still forget.)  Below is a recent email exchange between me and three of my sisters.

Email 1: Oanh to Dragon Sis

Happy Birthday, sis!
Hope it was a beautiful one and sorry I’m not there to celebrate with you!
How old are you now anyway?!
much love
Oanh x

Email 2: Oanh to Sensible Sis (sent shortly after the above)

Happy Birthday!!
Sorry it’s taken me so long to reply: work has been really busy! (and then I don’t bother turning on the computer at home because my computer is SO SLOW, so I am saving up to maybe buy an iPad… maybe 🙂

… [long email about how to do something Sensible Sis has asked for my help on] …

Let me know what you decide to do, if you need any more help etc.
much love and hope you had a lovely birthday!!

Email 3: Dragon Sis to Oanh

Hey Oanh,
Thank you for the Birthday wishes but you are 1 week early..mine & Sensible Sis birthday is next week. Today is Oldest Sis’ Birthday…:)  I will be REALLY OLD next week…

Email 4: Oanh to Dragon Sis

oh man, I have so many sisters, I get confused!  And I’ve been worrying about it all day today, too …
Better send my big sis an email then!

Email 5: Dragon Sis to Oanh

you are funny..yes you do have a lot of sisters..

Email 6: Oanh to Sensible Sis

Subject: Negative Birthday Wishes

I take back the happy birthday.  You can’t have it for another 7 days.

Email 7: Sensible Sis to Oanh


Thank-you for the birthday wishes, I keep it now (just in case you forget).

Email 8: Oanh to Oldest Sis

Happy Birthday big sis! I hear you’re getting even older.  You must be so old now.

I am yet to receive an email from Oldest Sis.  She’s probably just working on a witty response.  Oldest Sis likes purple and likes flowers, hence the otherwise gratuitous inclusion of the below photograph.

Gleaned Daisies.



  1. Cute story, Oanh 🙂 I can just see the bemused expressions on your sisters’ faces. My cousin was going to school at UCLA and I wanted to send her a fun birthday package. Went down to the Asian market and picked up a bunch of silly snacky things, things she probably would never buy for herself. Put in a fun birthday card with some balloons and shipped the box up to her. She wrote a week later, “Thanks for the box… I think. Only, my birthday’s in July not March.”


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