I will just lie here—Thinking Thinking. Perhaps if I think hard enough they will go away
“Mother! Stop this nonsense!” The voice was exasperated. “Snap out of it. You are not doing anyone any good just lying there. You are being childish”
Never would I speak to Mutti so. She would rap me with her wooden spoon, not hard\ just a little tap, just to remind me. It is Spring now in the village. The snow is gone from the roofs and everywhere there is the sound of water. ‘The white tops of the mountains glisten and the little streams make a happy sound. ’
“You’d try the patience of a saint! I hope your majesty will condescend to inform me when you are going to stop all this nonsense.”
And the sky is blue, real blue, not the washed out colour of a wide high sky. My sky is a roof to the valley; a small sky, persönlich, a sky to fit my little world.
“Two days you have kept this up. The doctor says there is nothing wrong, that you are just ‘resting’. You spoke to him all right. Oh yes, reasonableness itself when he comes. Why won’t you speak to me? What have I done? I don t know, mother, sometimes you are the absolute end! George says I should just leave you to it and you’ll come to your senses when it suits you, but I don’t know. It’s not natural your lying there in your bed facing the wall—ignoring me.
The cows are moving out, finding the new grass. Their bells clank their separate notes as they lower their heads to graze. Some are already tiny on the high field near the snow line but later they will all come down to the milking sheds. They know the lime. Hans used to say that they had Swiss watches in their heads. He was joking, but when I was young I believed it. We were both young -so young!
“You are not a young woman, Mother. It worries me that a woman of your age should play such silly games. Mother! Are you listening to me?”
Hans would not listen to me. He was so sure, so certain he was doing the right thing. He went away, away to this big, brown flat land. And he sent for me. He tricked me. “Come to the Snowy Mountains,” he said. Mountains! those worn down hills! Back in the valley, we sheltered beneath real mountains! Peak after peak holding up my canopy of sky—REAL mountains.
“Well, I’ll leave you to it. I’ve got things to do. Shopping. And the kids will be home from school soon. Tell them I won’t be long. If you can bring yourself to talk, that is. See you later.”
Later, it was always later. ‘After we buy the house. ’ ‘When the children are big enough. ’ Hans always had excuses. I will take you home again—one day, one day! ’
And now he is gone. Five years gone. Now it is later, much later, maybe too much later. Our dear little valley will have forgotten; forgotten Hans; forgotten me. It is Spring there now and I am facing Winter.
“Grandma, can I come in?”
The children. Oh Hans, Why did you give me little Manfred. Only six months old and we lost him. There, in that stupid work camp, in your Snowy Hills. And me, pregnant again within three months. No wonder she shows no respect to het Multi. Why did you choose that name? Kayleen?. What sort of name is that? Katerina, now there is a name.
And later, in Melbourne. What sort of world was your suburbia? Little house boxes, row on row. Each with its little house, its Hilse-hoist, its neighbours people who never speak. What for a neighbour is that? And Kayleen, growing up. She cannot remember the old language, the language I crooned to her in her cradle. You learned to speak to her, Hans. But I, I lost my daughter.
“Please, Grandma Elsa. Please, can I come into your ‘Bett’. I just want a cuddle.’
“Katerina, Katie, Is that you9. Of course, you may give me a cuddle. Come here.”
“I was so worried about you Grandma Elsa. I thought you had gone away.
“No Child, I was just on holiday. Now I am back. Come, I will get up. Your mother is shopping. Let us go to the Kuche. I will cook you a strudel.
© H.St.V.Beechey 1995