Inge has been working on a record of where her ancestors came from, who they were and who they became in their travels through life. The family history and her stories are a gift of love for her grandchildren, who will continue the family in New Zealand. Inge has travelled extensively through Europe, Southern Africa, Australia and New Zealand and hopes her grandchildren too will love adventure and travel and speak many languages that open windows to other worlds.
The content of this wheelie box is different, I discover, when I lift the lid. Old shirts and t-shirts, the usable part of old linen sheets. And then, at the bottom of the box, I find the fabric I bought in the Todd Mall in Alice Springs on our return from travelling through the Simpson Desert in 2005. An Aboriginal print, a river of yellows, blues and reds. There are fish in the river, barramundi perhaps, stingrays and jellyfish. Maybe it was one of the great rivers of the Northern Territory that inspired the artist — the Ord, the Fitzroy or the Norman River at the Gulf of Carpentaria. Rivers that don’t dry up like the fickle inland rivers.
There was no water in the Todd River when Ron and I were in Alice. Australia was in the grip of a ten-year drought. There was no water in the Fink River either, the oldest river on earth, when we crossed it at the Glendover Crossing. Ron drove. I walked across the wide, sandy riverbed lined with trees, sentinels of the river, letting you know the river is still there, a tiny stream running deep underground, waiting for the rain that will come in a few years, in a decade maybe and turn it once again into a mighty river.
In our desert life possessions were stripped back to a minimum. At the end of every day when darkness descended and night sucked the warmth from the land, when the sky blazed with a thousand stars I stood at the edge of eternity.
Light and the landscape are important to Inge. Speaking several languages opened a window to other worlds and cultures from a childhood in Denmark to periods spent in South Africa, Australia and a life in New Zealand. Because she is the last link to Denmark, Inge wants to preserve the memories for her children and grandchildren.
Mum was helping me with a tricky button on my trousers in the kitchen of the apartment we had moved into a few weeks earlier. Sun streamed through the windows. ‘I don’t like it here,’ I shouted. ‘It’s ugly.’ Mum just looked at me and opened the door for me to go out and play. I carefully walked down the stairs. The Thiesen’s didn’t like you making a noise.
I grabbed the handle of the front door. It required all the strength in my five-year old body to heave it open and walk down the path past the front garden. The Thiesen’s didn’t want me playing in the garden. I didn’t like them. They went to church a lot. If they were the kind of people at church I was glad I never went. A few days ago when I dawdled on the footpath, I had run my hand over the beech hedge picking a single, soft leaf. Suddenly Mrs Thiesen flung open the window and screeched, ‘We can trim the hedge ourselves, thanks.’
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