10 May, 2010

Singing in the rain.

My shoulders and pant legs were dark with rain. A rivulet of water ran alongside my nose and puddled in the hollow of my clavicle. We were all soaked, even though we attempted to simultaneously huddle under drippy umbrellas and balance damp sheet music. The pouring rain seemed a small discomfort given what we were gathered to commemorate: the victory of the Allied forces and the capitulation of Nazi Germany on the 8th of May, 1945. The local village choir, made up of some thirty people, including me, takes part every year, singing songs of liberation and remembrance while wreaths are laid by the young at the monument to the war dead. The combatants anciens are present and in full regalia, as are the solemnly speechifying mayor and the smartly dressed members of the local Gendarmerie Nationale (which are roughly speaking a cross between full-time National Guard and military police). They are joined by locals who come to remember relatives lost to the fight and to pay homage to the families of the village who, at significant personal risk, hid Jews from the Germans.
I guess I shouldn't have been surprised by the amount of pain, and sometimes anger, in the music I was singing, but having never experienced war in my own homeland, the strong feelings did unarm me. The steady, bone-chilling rain, the deeply wrinkled and ravined faces of the old fighters, the absolute stillness and attention of the crowd--all made for a somber morning.
This feeling was alleviated by some time spent in the green, green chicken & rabbit run, where I made the discovery of the first chick of spring, a yellow, cheeping puffball tucked under mama's wing (Domino, the proud mother, is in the photo below; baby photos to follow, natch). Two other eggs were cracked, in one you could see the head of the wet chicklet and you could hear cheeping from inside three eggs. In the middle of all the chick excitement, the new boy rabbit bounced around in the high grass determinedly followed by Shadow, the original rabbit, who remains hopeful that the new rabbit is of the female persuasion. Unless Shadow is homosexual...
Ah, me. Life goes on.


  1. Oh, this gave me goosebumps. I love that your country still celebrates VE Day. I just read about that very celebration in Julia Child's memoir "My Life In France."

    The reality of war in our own country is so hard for so many of us to grasp, and it's hard to believe that there are people still very much alive and vibrant who bear the scars (emotional and otherwise) of World War II. It really wasn't that long ago, in the grand scheme of things.

  2. You're right, Rose, it really wasn't that long ago. There's preserved war graffiti in the town hall from 1943, there's a lovely old man who enjoys giving tours of the village during the summer, and he was very active in the Resistance, so he sometimes inserts some of those stories. So different when you hear things from the people who were in a war.

    When I lived in Amsterdam, I always found it somewhat amazing how closely interlinked European nations now are, despite the relatively recent horrors of two world wars. If you find yourself in Amsterdam, you must visit the Jewish Historical Museum (often overlooked in tourists' rush to see the Anne Frank House).

    In France, WWII is still a delicate subject (often leading to hot debate) given the struggle that occurred between the official, collaborationist French Vichy regime and the small, guerilla Resistance.


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