Friday, June 06, 2003

A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square

Today is the 59th anniversary of the the allied landing in Normandy to liberate Europe from Nazi tyranny, an event that is now as distant from this generation as the American Civil war was to to Jazz Age. I had stumbled on its relics, one day, while at my aunt's as a child. They were moving house and her husbands memento's had all come out of the closet and onto the floor. There were cotton uniforms in light khaki and olive drab; cardboard boxes with brass buttons and pins in them. And what was a microphone with a bakelite mouthpiece and talk button attached to cord as thick as an electric cord ending in a huge jack. They had come from a pre-plastic age, when tents were canvas waterproofed with wax; when boots were made of leather uppers sewn to soles of the same; and bottles were made of glass, but men were made the familiar flesh and blood.

I never knew exactly what they were, or why my aunt's husband had kept them all those years. But later, I learned that he had landed on Omaha Beach on that long ago day. The only things he would say about it were that he used one condom to waterproof his wristwatch and another to keep water out of the muzzle of his M1 Garand. Of the fighting he was to say, "the Germans shot at me, and I shot back", but he would grow more animated when he remembered Paris, where he met Marlene Dietrich in a chance encounter. I never did get to know what those brass pins represented, or why he kept them. He died last year in a veteran's hospital in California. My only regret was that when I got old enough to know better, I never got the chance to thank him.

There'll be blue birds over the white cliffs of Dover,
Someday, just you wait and see
There'll be peace and laughter, forever after
Tomorrow, when the world is free.

The shepherd will tend his sheep
And the meadow will bloom again,
And Jimmy will go to sleep
In his own little room again.
There'll be bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover,
Someday, when the world is free.