Moving to a new land, to begin again …..
Glancing at his wife’s slightly wet hair and the crumpled nightdress poking out from under her dressing gown, his eyes rested momentarily on the dark circles that ringed her huge, expressive eyes. He wondered if he could ever offer her enough love to heal a broken life. Reine felt rather than saw his fleeting gaze. Averting his eyes, she looked down, placing the child in her high chair for their breakfast together. Sensing her guilt and aversion, he knew she tried to embrace him, their new life, and motherhood. Stefan recognised the tendrils of fear which pulled at her very being, saw his daughter watch and absorb the emotions, and wondered if in time they would pull her, too, into a swirling abyss of depression.
After breakfast Reine placed Miriam on a rug on the floor in the middle of the kitchen. All of the windows were flung open, welcoming in the morning sun and breeze. The houses in this old part of the city shouldered each other, often with no more than two metres separating them. People lived in each other’s pockets, often inadvertently privy to their neighbours’ inner sanctums. Reine’s Australian Aboriginal neighbour came to the window, greeting her, enquiring about the baby, a routine they shared each day—Miriam the key to an unlikely friendship. The neighbour spoke only “pigeon” English, and Reine, though fluent in French and German, was just beginning to acquire English. Regardless of the language barrier, the two women united in the bond of motherhood, sharing the simple pleasure of watching each other’s children grow and develop.
Both secretly looked forward to this time of day, when breakfast was over and the dishes needed washing. It provided a pleasant interlude in difficult days marred by marginalisation and prejudice. The neighbour was ostracized by black and white alike for her choice to live with a white man, raising his half-caste children. Reine returned to the sink to do the dishes. She knew her neighbour’s husband discouraged the friendship and had often heard his drunken tirades berating her for her German ancestry. At the sink, her back ached, and she felt as if her spine were made of liquid, unable to support her or hold her upright. The sense of isolation, the incredible distance from Germany and the infrequent communication with home, weighed her down. A German song played on the ABC radio. Tears flowed into the dishwater, seemingly washing away all prospects of future happiness. Distracted and exhausted, she attended the household chores; groomed as a good wife, she kept an immaculate home.