Tuesday, June 8, 2021


I'm sad to say that D-Day slipped past me with barely a thought this year. This morning I woke up remembering, two days late. I was 8 years old at the time. My boarding school had been evacuated from the South Downs, in Sussex, to temporary quarters in the Lake District, a safe distance from the military action. The school itself had been turned over to the armed forces for training purposes--the tank tracks we discovered churning up the ground all around the school on our return after the war were evidence of that, as were the clips of live ammunition and various other delightful boy toys we continued to discover in the undergrowth for months, even years later.

Meanwhile, up in the rocky hillsides and the woods around Ambleside, at the northern tip of Lake Windermere, there were many "Huns" that my friends and I would attack and kill with our long stick "rifles" in the course of our war games, only distantly aware of those thousands of men whose real lives were being ripped from them on those beaches to the south, across the English channel.

Americans, to me, were exotic gum-chewing, Lucky Strike smoking creatures from another world. We watched in awe as their convoys of trucks and Jeeps roared through our village. (Did you ever see "Hope and Glory"? That was so much my boyhood...) Our chant from the roadsides, "Got any gum. chum?" was more than just a trite cliche. We actually stood there shouting the words, and the men would throw us fistfuls of Spearmint pack with big American grins. How many of those men I have often wondered, never lived to return home to their country?

We Europeans--I can't help thinking of myself as one still, after nearly 60 years of living this side of the Atlantic--have so much to be grateful for, to America and Americans. It's a sad, sad feeling, these days, to remember that time, and to want so much for all that goodness and generosity and, yes, joy, to return to the many American hearts that seem to have turned sour and bitter, to long for those broad, unstinting, self-confident grins that represented, for me, as a child, what it meant to be American.

Perhaps, one day, the bitterness and bickering will cease and we'll rediscover what Joe Biden promises to be "the soul of America." I hope so. I truly do. Because I know it well enough, from those distant times, to miss it.


Marie Smith said...

Such a fascinating perspective on D Day and today. Thank you for sharing.

kfsartist said...

I agree with Marie. You present a meaningful perspective.