THE SISTERS' SONG coming in January 2018 from Allen and Unwin. Sign up to my newsletter.

Please indulge me this week, as there’s a story attached to my photo …

As I wrote in a recent blog post, lately I’ve had cause to think about the things in our house that I cherish. I don’t have much that’s been passed down through generations of my family, and even less that was handmade, but sitting in a box on a shelf in my wardrobe, wrapped in acid-free tissue paper, are two bed jackets made by my great-grandmother, Noreda Alice Hill, née Clark.

There’s a long story associated with her life—she was born in 1900, and widowed at twenty-seven with six young children. One day, she took to her bed and didn’t leave it for twenty-six years. Hence, she had a lot of time to devote to handcrafts, and she made many beautiful things.

She died when I was eight, and I remember her as little (even to me as a child), grumpy, with a walking stick leaning nearby.

As I was growing up, I remember her embroidered tablecloths, with her initials on the hems, being spread on the table for special dinners. My sister and I wore the plastic berry brooches she’d made when playing dress-ups. I used the brown leather sewing box she’d handmade, for my own sewing accessories—sticking my needles and pins through the pink lining and pincushion.

At the time, I gave little thought to the painstaking work that had gone into making all these things, and I certainly didn’t view them as objets d’art or as treasured heirlooms from my family history—all that meant nothing to me. I didn’t think that one day I’d wish we’d not used them, but looked after them.

Amongst her things one day, I remember seeing an envelope upon which she’d written in capitals: ‘REMEMBER GOEBBELS AND THE GESTAPO.’ She’d pinned it to her lapel and worn it when she went to vote in an election not long after the War.

The bed jacket in this photo has French seams, and the front and sleeves are pin-tucked and embroidered with tiny rosebuds. My great-grandmother crocheted a cotton trim along the edges of the lapels and collar, and also handmade the loops for the buttons.

Like me when I was younger, my kids have no interest in paraphernalia from their family tree, not yet—they look at these bed jackets and just see discoloured, old-fashioned shirts that smell musty.

But I’ll keep them and pass them on, in the hope that one day they’ll treasure them as I do.

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At the weekend, Monique made a trip to the Margaret River Region, and ended the day with a fireside meal at fellow writer Lily Malone’s house. It was one of those comfortable evenings characterised by good food, good wine and good company, and was made even more special by the flickering fire (and a couple of jumbo marshmallows). As the flames flickered, Monique felt them saying, ‘Catch me if you can …’ and so she had her creative challenge for the week.

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Midweek Moment is a weekly photographic endeavour in which Monique Mulligan and I team up to share our favourite photos on our websites. It’s a way of stretching ourselves creatively and a nice distraction from writing. Click here for more of our Moments.

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THE SISTERS' SONG

Coming January 2018 (Allen and Unwin)

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