To the outside world we all grow old. But not to sisters. We know each other as we always were. We know each other’s hearts. We share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys. We live outside the touch of time. ~ Clara Ortega.

As a child growing up in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney in New South Wales, Australia, my parents would often take me on an outing to see the “Three Sisters”, a mountainous landmark in Katoomba, where the majestic formation of rocks juts out into the depths of the Grose Valley.

The Three Sisters

Mum would tell me I should call the “Three Sisters” by the names of my own three sisters, Anne, Christine and Vivien. Being a child I thought this idea was great fun, and even as I grew older I could never see the “Three Sisters” without remembering my own three sisters.

Naming the rock formations after my own sisters became even more apt as the years went by, my sisters were my rocks, giving me strength, wisdom, love, advice and friendship, for which I will be eternally grateful. In so many ways, I have been blessed by the structure of the family in which I was born, having four adult women throughout my growing years, all of whom would nurture me, in their own individual ways, as mothers do their children.

Each of my sisters has their own unique personalities and their own individual looks. None of us can see any physical resemblance to each other, even though we have occasionally been told that we do look alike. Apart from all being similar in height, (I may be just a tad taller than the others), and we all eventually ended up having varying shades of brown hair, that’s it – that’s where the similarities end.

A sister is both your mirror…and your opposite. ~ Elizabeth Fishel.

Annette

Annette (February 16, 1942 – December 3, 2007) was “Miss Independence”. She lived her life under her terms and made it very clear that there was no room for compromise.

Anne enjoyed the independence of earning her own income, working from home after her two children were born, even though back in the early 1960’s, when she first became married, it seemed perfectly acceptable for a woman to become the homemaker. Anne enjoyed having a nice home, she just didn’t choose to be tied to the obligations of a home, in fact, she resented being tied to anything!

It wasn’t until around my fifteenth birthday that I felt that Anne saw me as a real human being! In her younger years, she seemed to have little time in her life for children, even though that had all changed by the time my own children and her grandchildren were born.

The person who Anne matured into showed kindness towards everyone. The rebellion of her youth subsided into her becoming the most caring person, although whilst mellowing, she never fully lost the quick-witted spark in her personality which was her trademark.

Anne and I became great friends and shared a special bond which can be best described as a mixture between sisters, best friends and worst enemies, with just a smattering of mothering on her part.

We would talk for hours on the phone, sharing opinions, not necessarily always agreeing with each other, but that was okay. I learned a lot from my eldest sister.

On October 27, 1962 Anne married Bruce in the Presbyterian Church at Springwood, NSW. They had two children, Jeffrey and Jenine, but were later divorced in 1977.

Anne and Bruce

Bruce had been a part of my life since my earliest memories. To me, he was and always will be my brother, such is the affection that I feel towards him. I’m sorry his marriage to my sister didn’t last, but that was a decision they had to make. For me, I always have and always will regard Bruce as an important and close member of my family, and he knows that.

There are two other men in my life, who I also regard as my brothers-  David, the husband of my middle sister Christine, and Adrian, husband of my youngest sister, Vivien. Like Bruce, I have never known a time in my life when they weren’t there. All three of these men are a part of the secure family unit I grew up in. Nothing will ever change the love I feel for each of them.

Sisters are different flowers from the same garden. ~ Unknown.

Christine

I looked forward to the times when I would have a sleep-over with my sister Christine when I was still young, and we all still lived in the Blue Mountains. I always had the best time with David, and Chris and I would spend time together looking at her jewellery, and trying on her clothes and shoes (which were always way too big for me!) Chris had longer hair than my other two sisters back then and she would let me play hairdresser on her hair.

Chris was the sister that I could have the deep heart-to-heart talks with when I reached teenage years. I could tell Chris my deepest, darkest secrets and she would never be shocked by anything I said, betray my trust or laugh at me.

Not long after my parents and I moved north to live near the border of New South Wales and Queensland, Christine, David and their two baby sons moved south to Tasmania, which is the separate little island you see just below Australia, when you look on a map.

Christine and David

In Tasmania, Chris and David became parents to two more sons and over the years, Christine’s busy life and the distance we have lived away from one another has not allowed us to keep in touch as often as I would like. But when we do speak on the phone, no matter how long it has been since we last spoke, we just pick up our conversation as if we only spoke the day before! That’s just the way it is with us.

An older sister helps one remain half child, half woman. ~ Unknown.

My youngest sister, Vivien, is the sister I see most often and also talk to the most. Vivien lives about six hours drive south of me and all of my children are the closest to her out of all their aunties.

Vivien

But that’s how Vivien is. She’s the Mother when your own mother isn’t there, I know she was to me, and perhaps still is at times. She nurtures and protects and loves and cares for….well, everyone!

When I was young and I stayed at her home, we would go on outings, perhaps just shopping, but I would enjoy whatever we did. We would cook together and I would lick the beaters when we made a cake and when she tucked me into bed at her place at night, I would think it was the cosiest bed I had ever slept in!

Just last year, when I spent a couple of days with Vivien at her home, her grandson told me about the things he and his grandparents did together and I felt like a child again. I could relate to his stories and could tell him, “I used to do those things when I spent time with your grandparents when I was a little girl!” He and I had a lot in common.

Vivien and Adrian

And when I went to bed at Vivien’s home, the bed I slept in was still the cosiest bed in the world….

Even my own son, who visited Vivien with me last year, agrees that Auntie Vivien’s house is the coolest place to visit! My sister is loved and adored by multiple generations.

A younger sister is someone…who needs you…who comes to you with bumped heads, grazed knees, tales of persecution. Someone who trusts you to defend her. Someone who thinks you know the answers to almost everything. ~ Pam Brown.

The youngest of Sam and Annie’s daughters is me…..and this is my story here….

It is through the different personalities and the varying relationships that I have had with my three sisters that I believe I have learned the true meaning of what it is to be a part of a close family unit, for although there is age and distance between us, the bonds of sisterhood can never be broken.

Both within the family and without, our sisters hold up our mirrors: our images of who we are and of who we can dare to become. ~ Elizabeth Fishel

Joanne, Christine, Annette and Vivien Mottershead.

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