Twenty Things My Sister Has Actually Said

by Mara

Once a treehugger, always a treehugger.


I can remember the first time my sister said something intentionally funny. It was a Saturday morning, I was sleeping in, and as usual, Anna saw it as her duty to wake me up. She bounded into our room and onto my bed, and yelled, “Mara! Wake up! You won’t believe it! It’s snowing!”

It was the first of April in Southern California. It was clearly not snowing. But I loved my little sister, so I played along, sat up, and pulled up the window blinds. Anna jumped up and down and yelled “April Fool’s!”

“Aw, you got me!” I said, even though she hadn’t. She must have sensed that, because immediately after, she yelled, “Mara! Daddy’s coming! You’re going to be in trouble! Hide under your pillow!”

I played along this time, too, even though this joke made even less sense. Why should I hide from our father? I hadn’t done anything wrong, and even if I had, my bed was the first place he would look. In fact, he would probably be more annoyed to find me in my bed, when I could be making myself useful doing my homework or unloading the dishwasher.

“APRIL FOOL’S!” Anna yelled again, so loud that I could hear her through the pillow. She giggled, but when I pulled the pillow off my face, her expression changed. She sat on my bed, looking thoughtful, as the sun streamed through her hair and brought out her natural red and gold highlights. I thought there was no way she could get any more adorable, but then she smiled.

“That was pretty lame, wasn’t it?” she said, and we both burst out laughing.

The youngest member of a family is often ignored or overlooked, but it was hard not to notice Anna. She was a remarkably beautiful child: when we went to Japan, everyone fussed over me until they noticed my much more kawaii, blond-haired, green-eyed baby sister. She looked like a living doll.

Anna was also a natural born artist: when she was a baby, she would make complex, perfectly symmetrical patterns on the floor with her blocks, which was both impressive and uncanny. Once she could hold a crayon by herself, there was not a single piece of paper in the house that was not marked with her scribblings. She drew as well as I could by the time she was six.

Most of all, though, Anna was funny. We could prompt her to say the funniest things: one of our favorites was to hold up our father’s work shirt, with the KTLA Channel 5 Logo, and ask her what it stood for. “Simp-sim trial,” she would respond. 1 As she got older, she didn’t need prompting. After two of my then-fifteen-year-old brother Joel’s friends spent the evening with us, five-year-old Anna announced to that she had something to say: she had fallen in love with both of them. Another time she hid under the bed while playing hide-and-seek, but yelled “I’m in the closet!” Sometimes we heard secondhand what she had done, as when our long-suffering father implored, “Anna, please don’t wipe your mouth on the shower curtain.” 2

Today, March 22nd, Anna will turn twenty. She was funny as a kid, and she’s funny now. Sometimes it’s intentional, and sometimes it’s not. Here are twenty things my sister has actually said. The ones she said as a child or a teenager include her age, but the rest are things she has actually said in the past few years.

1. THREE-YEAR-OLD ANNA (Pointing at a Hello Kitty stuffed toy): Take it out of here! It scares me!

My brother Danny remembered this one. I’m sure I teased her mercilessly until someone reminded me of my equally ridiculous and irrational fear of ALF.

2. ME (Seeing Anna walking around with her arm out of her dress’s neckhole): Anna, why are you wearing your dress like that?
FOUR-YEAR-OLD ANNA: Because I want to get a real job!

3. NINE-YEAR-OLD ANNA (To my first boyfriend, on the start of our second date): Her chest is really comfortable to put your head on. You should try it!

He responded, “If she’ll let me…”

4. THIS CLIP FROM FAMILY GUY: You’re a McDonald, not a whore!
TEN-YEAR-OLD ANNA: Ha ha ha ha ha! (To me) What’s a whore?

I never should have left Adult Swim on. My response, after a long silence, was “Um, you remember Moulin Rouge? Remember what Satine did? It’s the bad name for one of those.” She probably thought it was a derogatory term for someone who sings and dances.

5. ME: If God can be anything God wants to be, what do you think God is?

6. ELEVEN-YEAR-OLD ANNA (Singing to a jar of olives, to the tune of “You Are My Lucky Star”): Youuuuuu…. are… my tasty… snack! I… saw you… in the back… of the refrigerator. Two lovely olives, at me, they were taaaaaaasty, taaaaaaasty… I… WAS… HUNGRY!

Anna hates this story as much as she loves olives. This was her reaction when I sent her a care package with a note referencing it:

Anna hates me.

Yes, I know she's cute. No, she's not single. Sorry.

7. TWELVE-YEAR-OLD ANNA (tapping on a table): (Knock, knock, knock, knock! Knock, knock, knock, knock!)
OUR BROTHER JON: Who’s there?
ANNA: Death!

She later explained that she was tapping out the first few notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony: it was stuck in her head, and she had heard that those notes were supposed to be Death knocking at one’s door.

8. TEENAGE ANNA (Said about me): If I were to imagine you as a cartoon character, I think you’d be a sexy, feminine Squidward.

The sad thing is, it’s pretty dead on.

9. “A – yellow, B – red, C – black, D – blue, E – green, F – purple, G and H – brown, I – none/white, J – purple, K – black, L – pink, M – orange/brown, N – orange, O – none/white, P – red-brown, Q – black, R, S, and T – red, U – none/white, V – pink, W – magenta/red, X – black, Y – pink, Z – red-brown.”

This is how my sister sees the alphabet. Anna has Synaesthesia, which is one of the coolest neurological conditions ever: basically, her senses are cross-linked. It takes many forms for her, but mostly she’s grapheme-color synaesthetic. This means to her, letters and words are inextricably linked with certain colors. It’s cool for her friends, who get to know what color their names are, but can be exhausting for her. She often gets sensory overload in big parties or big cities, and after having a large espresso for the first time, she texted me, “I CAN SEE SOUNDS, EXCEPT MORE THAN USUAL!”

10. ME (Helping her color her hair): Do you have any latex gloves?
ANNA: Where would I find latex gloves? This isn’t Planned Parenthood!

11. ANNA
(Confused over a link I sent her): What is this?

ME: It’s about the Christian Left. You know, as opposed to the Christian Right.
ANNA: Oh! Yeah, I thought the title’s context was like, “We don’t know where he went, dude!”

Smartassery runs in the family.

12. “I am one half diamond dog made of sea glass and one half chocolate lab made of real chocolate.”

She wrote this as a comment on a friend’s facebook status. I have no idea what it means.

13. ANNA: I’m sick! This ruins my whole day!

ME: Well, you’ll just rest up and feel better tomorrow.
ANNA (As if in complete abject misery): But I was going to make kale chips!

14. “People keep telling me, ‘You look like Zooey Deschanel!’ But I really don’t. I just tell them, ‘Yeah, I fit the “white girl with bangs’ look.”

15. “You wouldn’t expect Poison Control to have a sense of humor, but they did!”

She was talking about the time she got oil paint in her eye.

16. ANNA: What does ‘love you long time’ mean?
ME: Um… Google it.
ANNA: It means hookers. Did you know that?

17. ANNA (Regarding the dog): Mom, does Yoko have chronic pain?
ANNA: But how would we know if she did?!
ANNA (After a long pause): Mom? Is Yoko Catholic?

The dog in question. I still don't know why Anna named her Yoko.


18. “Here’s a fun idea. You can have a codeword like ‘Communist takeover’ or ‘David Flowie’ for when you get your period! Now you can bring up your menstrual cycle in public and NOBODY WILL KNOW BUT YOU! ~Just between us girls~”

Written on a male friend’s Facebook.

19. “uhhh, jump in
oh, it will be awful
and then you refine it
and refine it
and refine it
and refine it
it might take years
i mean, you’re young”

She gave me this writing advice when I was feeling a little lost, and I think it’s good advice for anyone of any age struggling with their creative endeavors.

20. “I wish just wearing undies could make you un-die in real life. That would be neat.”

When Anna was born, I was in San Francisco, starting my life as a film actor. Twenty years later, she is in San Francisco, starting her life as a visual artist. Film did not work out for me, but I have faith in Anna, and I know that no matter what she may choose to do, she will always be an artist. And she will always be funny.

I love you so much, Anna. You were my best friend twenty years ago (when you had no say in the matter) and I am fortunate you’re my best friend now. May you outlive Jeanne Calment.


  1. It was 1995, and while none of us were watching the O.J. Simpson trial on a regular basis — let alone letting a toddler watch it! — we did usually watch their morning news show. They would discuss it there, and Anna came to associate the little “5” logo in the corner of the screen with that phrase.
  2. My brother Joel later wrote a song about it.