When our mothers were where we are now

Yesterday I was up in Sydney to farewell one of our oldest family friends who had lost her battle with cancer. At 70 she seems too young to have to leave her 4 children behind, her 11 grandchildren that are still so young and have their whole lives ahead of them. It was a bittersweet day to reconnect with so many old and familiar faces, so many memories of my own childhood coming flooding back and of course a wonderful chance to spend some time with my brother, sister and Mum for a day of remembering.

After the mass we were all standing on the lawn in the sunshine when I got talking to a couple of Mums from primary school who were there at the same time as us. They spoke about how they remember us at school as little Kindergarten kids, unsure and nervous as we lined up and how we are now older than they were at the time. During the mass I spent so much time looking around the church at familiar faces who now look like their own parents did at the time when we were young. Our own parents, now older too. Time, that fickle beast moves us forward, on we go.

During many of the quiet times throughout the mass the priest asked us to reflect and remember the things we could about the amazing woman we were celebrating the life of. Christine was a huge part of my childhood, the Mum of my very best friend from the age of 4 well into our adult lives. Their home a place of happiness for me where I spent many many days and nights. It was filled with music, art on the balls, piles of books, amazing meals, flowers from their garden, opera playing in the background, a pantry filled with sauces and things from all over the world that I didn’t know about, art deco furniture, laughter, kids, so many people of all ages, interesting conversation, strong, powerful females. In so many ways, being in their home shaped the kind of home that I wanted to have myself when I was older (not that I knew it at the time). And the same for some of the other homes of my mother’s best friends. I have written a little about this before here (it’s so sad to realise that both these women are now gone, taken before their time from stupid fucking cancer). It’s interesting don’t you think how even as young children we take in what we see around us, the homes and the people that we are with through our parents friends and see what things we might like, or what we connect with. My Mum always had such a strong friendship circle that lasts until today from our early childhood, right through Primary and Highschool and beyond. A group of women who supported each other, and while they were all very different: had different tastes, styles, approaches to life I have gained so much and can credit so much to them for the kind of woman I am today. The kind of Mum, friend, wife and home that I have created for my own family now that I am “apparently” a grown up too.

It’s fascinating to me that I am now the age that my Mum and her friends were at the time that I have such strong memories of happiness from my own childhood. The big stuff: the stuff that gets locked away and makes you remember being a kid. The Good stuff. The important stuff.

This is a painting by my best friend Soph, called Chesterfield Rd, the home that they lived in. I bought it a little while ago and am so happy that it sits on my wall.

I hope my own girls have these memories from some of my amazing friends and family that they spend time with today. A life of beautiful countryside and homes filled with lots of friends of all ages. I wonder what parts they will take on themselves when they are women? When they become Mothers. I hope they have many happy memories locked away. So much of our life today is taken from the homes and lives of those strong women. Many who I am still lucky enough to see and spend time with (hello Aunty Tricia).

And to my loving quiet memories of Christine from yesterday I wanted to give them a little more space here. To thank her for having me in her own home for so many years. For loving me, encouraging me, feeding me, putting up with me, inspiring me to be a strong woman. A loving mum. A lover or art and food and entertaining. So many parts of who I am today are because of her. And it’s not until you stop to reflect that you realise that. What a gift. I am so grateful for it.

I’d love to hear about some important women from your childhood. Aunties, family friends, relatives, Mothers, cousins, what they gave you and how you see them reflected in your own lives today.

And I’d love someone to explain to me how we all got here so fast?


  1. Polly McDougall says

    Beautiful Beth. I remember my friend’s family homes so well from when I was a kid and for sure the art and decor and food has influenced what I like and love just as much as my own home. Sending you a big hug xxx

  2. Thank you Beth. This…it is not the big stuff that shapes us but the day to day humdrum of life, the people, the smells, the places, that we don’t even realise is seeping into our being. I hope and wonder too xx

  3. Oh Beth, this is so beautiful. I felt every heartfult word of your memories written here and you have captured just how I feel this week. I too have been at a funeral of one of my parents best friends, my godmother, who was also 70 and died too young from cancer. She was a strong,amazing woman and such a figure in my childhood memories.

  4. What an extraordinary post Beth. Beautifully written. I’m off to ponder it a bit, the home we are offering our kids and their friends as they enter the primary school years. Funny, we’ve never met, but like the women you were surrounded by in your younger years, since discovering your blog so many years ago now, I’ve often carried your words in my heart, turning them over and considering them as I’ve moved on with my day. Your words, your recipes, your just do one thing posts, they’ve shaped the life that I’ve created and the woman that I’ve become. I know it. We often consider our gratitude for those that shaped ourselves without considering our own impact to be of equal measure. How lucky your girls and the young ones they bring into your home are to have you x

  5. Eating my lunch while reading this has brought back many happy memories – our Dutch next door neighbour’s who became lifelong friends & many happy times were spent after school in their little house with their 5 children while learning to love Dutch licorice and apple mousse with main course dinner. My mums good friends were always known as ‘Aunty x’ even though we weren’t related and at 52 years I still call them Aunty … My mum always had loyal fun loving friends who loved getting out & doing things – no sitting at home watching the grass grow – I’ve turned out exactly the same and hope my children follow suit. Thanks Beth for making me pause to reflect.

  6. Very sad to hear that Beth and sending my love to everyone. I had a similar experience last Friday – one of Mums dear friends Carmel passed away and I had that same feeling at the church and afterwards at the wake. So many mixed emotions. I wasn’t anywhere near as close to her as you were to Christine but for some reason it knocked the wind out of me. Kept biting my lip in Church as I told myself I could not cry more than Carmel’s own family. I was a mess. I also grew up surrounded by my Mums friends and families from the community and have great memories of that time. Those all cane flooding back. Of being the little one dragged to meeting after meeting organising fetes/ art shows/ new schools. Sleepovers at Mums friends while Cathy was sick. Sadly so much grief surrounded us all as a community back then also but it also bound us in a way. I couldn’t put to words the swirling emotions I have felt since then as I was REALLY affected by Carmel’s passing- it’s part realization of a life whizzing by/ lost connections/ the overwhelming feeling of happy/sadness when it comes to celebrating a life. Of what an amazing woman she was . I stilll feel strange but your post actually made the emotions I felt kind of make sense. Thank you for being the eloquent and intelligent soul that you are and for helping me process some of those feelings.
    I looked at Mum and thought about a future time when I would also be saying goodbye to my cherished friends, or not able to drive myself to a mates place anymore to say hi. I think my sadness was also fear of that time and how painful that would be.
    Let’s tell our friends and family we love them more, find ways to connect with the people we care about in ways that bring joy and be kind to each other ❤️❤️❤️.

  7. Oh Beth this resonates so much. The impact we have on other people should never be under-estimated . Here’s to making more time to enjoy those special people💙🍷

  8. Belinda Clarke aka Witter says

    Thank you Beth the Witters and Hallinans certainly had an amazing childhood and family friendship. Your Mum Sue is very special woman to me, she knows her emotions and gives sacred space to them. I loved having her visit me in Tassie for Mums 70th and to show her that I have a house with alot of blue and white crockery and indoor plants… George St lives on. So does filo pastry! Both woman grew up a lot of kids! Thanks for articulating the moments from Mums funeral and life, very special. I am thrilled you have Soph’s painting of Chesterfield Rd … the spirit lives on

  9. I can smell that house. I was often afraid in that house. Not afraid because it was scary, but afraid of who I was trying to be. When I knocked on the door for the first time I fell in love. I didn’t quite grasp it at the time but it was there. A girl with a red hooded cape peered from behind the frame and giggled. When I went inside it felt magical. Nooks, shelves, little rooms, piles of books and lemons. Always lemons.
    My first meal there was like nothing I had tasted before. I only know that because I snuck a bite of the left overs when I didn’t have a table full of people that I was hopelessly trying to impress to deal with.
    I’ve never forgotten Mrs Witter, who afforded me kindness that I didn’t quite deserve. It was her single act of kindness on one New Years Eve in Beecroft that put me at ease at a time when I needed it. I still remember it clearly to this day.
    I didn’t know Christine half or even a fraction as well as the people on this thread. We shared only a fleeting moment, but it had an impact. For that, thank you Mrs Witter. Rest in Peace.
    Thanks for the post Beth.

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