When I was a little girl, growing up in Normandy, I knew only two things about the United States of America.
People living there spoke American English.
It was the country that ended World War II.
One of my oldest childhood memories goes back to a day my father and I stood on a beach along the Atlantic coast. Since I had only seen the Manche (the English Channel), I asked him what stood beyond the Atlantic Ocean.
America, he said.
I detected an edge in his voice. I was too young to pinpoint the emotion behind, yet I knew to recognize reverence.
Until I moved from France to the United States my father’s only connection with America was tied to the liberation of his small Normandy village by a coalition of American and Canadian soldiers right after D Day.
Here in the United States I’ve met a handful of American men who fought in France during WWII but none who landed on the beaches of my childhood.
Recently I spoke to a woman whose father was among the ones who set foot on Omaha Beach in the early hours of the day that would bring peace to Europe. I was so moved by the fact that her father had walked through the villages and small towns that are the fabric of my childhood landscape that I asked her if I could meet him.
I wish you could, she said, but he died last year.
When his daughter told me his age, I calculated that he was twenty yeard old when he arrived in Normandy on D Day.
Only a year older than my son. A year ago, he and I hiked in Yosemite on Memorial Day weekend. I wrote a post about this unforgettable hike, which still echoes my thoughts on this 2015 Memorial Day.