|Re-enactment of D-Day 2009|
This is Memorial Day week-end in the U.S.
That means that swimming pools will be opening for the summer. It means you can wear white again, until Labor Day - although that's now a somewhat out-dated fashion rule. It means that recipes for potato salad and marinades for the BBQ abound in newspapers and magazines.
But one of my readers - and she will know who she is - reminded me of another thing that Memorial Day means. And that’s who we’re memorializing.
|American Embassy - Paris|
Some visitors have complained about the non-welcome that Americans get in France, especially in Paris. (Of course, French people from the provinces also can get a rude welcome in Paris, but that’s another blog altogether.) Not having an American accent in French, I’ve sometimes been privy to anti-American comments at dinner parties. That always makes my friends a bit nervous, so they explain to the offending party, "Sandy’s American, you know." An "oops" - in French translation - usually follows, with an apology.
After lunch, some of my flock wanted a coffee. I drove them along the crest of the bluff and we found a bar/café at a crossroads out in the middle of nowhere, among the fields. Inside, standing at the bar, were farmers in muddy rubber boots and faded blue work overalls, talking and having a beverage of their choice. We sat down at one of the tables, which were all empty. I took the order and went to give it in. The sixty-something year old gentleman behind the bar - probably the owner - took our order and brought it to our table.
After a while, we were ready to get on with the day’s tour. We stopped at the bar to pay our bill. "How much do we owe you?" I asked the gentleman. "American?" he asked, looking us over in turn. "Yes," I answered, not knowing where this was going. "It’s already paid for," he continued. I looked around at the men standing at the bar, wondering why one of them had paid for us. "I was eight years old on D-Day," he went on. "It’s already been paid for."
There is a cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach, on land which has been donated to America in perpetuity. In it are buried 9,387 Americans who gave their lives to free Europe and the world of Nazi totalitarianism. My tourists always want to go there. I take them near closing time, when it’s more calm and most of the tourists have left. It’s most beautiful at that time, and you can hear your thoughts better. And the memories.