Sixteen Candles.

Processed with VSCOcam with x1 presetFriends, today is my little sister’s 16th birthday!

I prayed for a sister for eleven long years before I finally got one. Sure, Mom and Dad thought that they were done having kids—but with two brothers quickly tiring of forced dress-up and tea parties, I had grown up with a gnawing sense that something—someone—was missing.

Enter Emily, stage right. The minute that my Mama announced that she was pregnant, I just knew that the baby would be a girl. I took unabashed delight in heralding the news of my newly-minted sibling to all of my Mother’s friends—proudly announcing that Mom forgot to take her birth control and now I’m going to get a sister to anyone that would listen. [As an adult, I now realize how uncomfortable that must have been. Sorry, Mom! ]

And then sixteen years ago today, Emily Scott Peterson was finally born. Agonizingly, I was forced to go to school that morning while my Daddy drove Mom to the hospital for a scheduled C-section. I remember bouncing up and down at my desk, watching the second hand on the classroom clock tick, tick, tick, tick. It took every ounce of control in my sixth grade body not to elatedly leap out of my chair and do cartwheels down the highway towards the birthing center. After all, I’d been waiting my whole life for Emily.

She was worth the wait. Y’all, my sister is feisty. She’s KIND—and she’s known for it. She’s a child-genius, and with three much older siblings, she had a dauntingly impressive vocabulary rivaling children a decade her senior by the time she was five. [And that in two different languages!] I remember one day when Stephen, Ian and I were being loud, a frustrated toddler balled her chubby little fists and screwed up her pouting face as fire shot out of her brown eyes. With all of the fervent gusto of Martin Luther’s “I have a dream”, she angrily stomped her foot and announced that IT WOULD BEHOOVE YOU ALL TO STOPIT WIGHT NOOOOOOOOW!

Well, then.

Emily is tender-hearted. Perceptive far beyond her years, she notices the throbbing wounds that so many silently carry. More than noticing, she is incapable of allowing someone to hurt alone—choosing to enter into pain even when it means remembering her own. She watched Ian die as a middle schooler—and if losing a brother is gut-wrenching as an adult, picture losing him as a kid when none of your peers know what to say, and worse—don’t say anything at all. Cancer left her mark on Emily, and I have watched my sister purposefully use her story to keep people from hurting alone. And in one of the more selfless things that I’ve ever seen someone do, last year she shaved her beautiful chestnut hair clean off to raise money for cancer research. When I questioned her decision, afraid that her high school peers would not be kind to a bald girl roaming the halls, she stared back at me unflinchingly. Ash, if raising money means that doctors find a cure and other girls get to keep their brothers, what does it matter if people make fun of how I look?

Well then.

She loves theatre and music and dancing and laughing so hard she snorts. She can’t tell a joke to save her life, and I secretly hate her for having longer legs than I do. She is a rebel in all of the best possible ways—entirely unafraid to be exactly herself in a world full of knock-offs. Really, we could all learn a thing or two from my sister.

So here’s to you, Emmy Scott, and every single one of those sixteen years. I love you and I’m so proud of you!


  1. She sounds like a wonderful young woman and sister, Ashley. I appreciate hearing your loving reflections about the gift she is in your life.

  2. Dora Schmitt says:

    Happy Birthday Emily, you touched and changed my life. You will always be one of my “girls”! #girlscoutpride

  3. Kristen Via says:

    Ashley, can I just tell you that your blog has changed my life? I find inspiration in everything you write. Your sister sounds amazing. Your whole family sounds amazing. I’d like to become an honorary member of the Peterson family. :)

  4. Beautiful tribute! I too have a much younger sister named Emily, her birthday is September 28th. My sister is living in Cape Town and working as a pediatrician, awaiting the arrival of her first child, a son. She is such a wonderful blessing in my life as well. I really enjoy your blog, you are a gifted writer!

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