this is quite possibly the best thing I’ve read all week.
When I was 8, we took a family trip to Normandy. There are several things I remember vividly about this trip. It was during this trip that my brother, sister and I ate mussels for the first time. It was pouring down rain, really raining hard; we parked the car and ran into a deserted restaurant. Totally drenched from the rain, we sat down and demolished an enormous bowl of mussels. This is where I learned how to use an empty shell, still attached at the “hinge”, to use as a tweezer of sorts and pull the mussel out of another shell.
It was also during this trip that we visited all of the major WWII points of interest, including the cemetery in the article above. I remember walking with my family on a path towards the infamous bluff at Omaha, and I stopped. I don’t know why, but I just didn’t want to see it anymore. I’d heard stories all morning from my Dad about how many Americans died trying to climb up the bluff and suddenly my legs shut down. I told my parents I had to go to the bathroom and to go on ahead and I’d wait for them there. They complied, and I stood there on the path and waited. I just couldn’t face the bluff. I was an impressionable 8 year old, and the whole of the war just hit me at once; I couldn’t handle it. I know that’s kind of a poor excuse, but how else is an 8 year old supposed to deal with this idea of horror? I stood there and waited and felt horrible.
Later, after visiting the American cemetery, we stopped by the less visited German one as well. And after that, we saw the church at Sainte Mere Eglise, with the famed stained glass window. I remember pictures of us three kids hanging off of large cannons inside the bunkers along the coast. Back in 1977, the cannons and bunkers were already gouged out with graffiti, and I think I’ve since heard that the cannons have been removed. I’ll have to ask my Dad about those pictures; I can vividly see my brother and I straddling a cannon with my sister standing below us.
On the way back to Paris, we stopped in Rouen so that my mom could point out the very spot where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake**. I tell ya, that was one sobering family vacation.
At any rate, this has little to do with food. But while we’re still recovering from the effects of cookouts everywhere across America, lets not forget what Memorial Day really stands for. It was nice to have the day off from work, but I continue to be surprised by how many people and kids have no earthly idea what we should be honoring, instead of the almighty beer and hot dog.
** A leetle trivia: Saint Joan was killed on May 30, 1431, which, hey, is this Friday. May 30th is also the original date for Memorial Day.