Posted tagged ‘Belgium’

“The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.”

June 6, 2014

The rain stayed all day yesterday, got heavy at times then finally stopped in the late afternoon. Today is sunny and warm with a breeze that sways the leaves. The clouds, though, keep coming and going, but the sun seems to win each time. I have errands to do. On a day like today, I don’t mind.

My dad served in the navy during World War II. He enlisted the day he turned seventeen because he didn’t need his mother’s or father’s permission any more. His ship plied the North Atlantic ferrying supplies. It was sunk, but he was rescued. The cold water did great damage to his legs so my dad spent a long time at a hospital in England. He was eighteen and to him war was an adventure. He never even told his parents he was in the hospital. They had to contact the Red Cross to try and find him. One of his memories, one of the few he shared, was about gliding a bicycle down the hill from the hospital to a pub. His legs were in casts so he couldn’t pedal. Someone would drive him back up the hill. During the Battle of the Bulge he was still in the hospital. He told us huge numbers of wounded were coming in and saying they were getting overrun by the Germans. That’s one of the things he remembered most.

My parents and my sister and I traveled together one year to Belgium and the Netherlands. At one point we were in the Ardennes where there were still tank traps looking like concrete teeth rising from the forest floor. My dad was in awe at being in the places he had heard about from the soldiers he had met in the hospital. At Malmedy he told us about the massacre of American soldiers by the Germans. He sounded both sad and angry. In Belgium, my dad wanted to see Bastogne where we stayed at a hotel overlooking Gen. McAuliffe Square, named in tribute to the man who told the Germans, “Nuts,” when he was asked to surrender the town. We ate dinner one night at a restaurant in the hotel where American officers had been billeted. We walked around the Mardasson Memorial which honors American soldiers who were killed, wounded or captured in the Battle of the Bulge. We visited the World War II Museum. My father said very little. Though he had never fought here, he held all of it in great reverence.

Today is the 70th Anniversary of D-Day.



“Sunday is the core of our civilization, dedicated to thought and reverence.”

April 14, 2013

The day has potential. The sun is working its way from behind the clouds so every now and then I see light which gives me a bit of hope. A patch of blue also appears then disappears so I’m thinking maybe a nice afternoon might be the order of the day. I think a lovely Sunday afternoon is the best of all. During the week most people work so lovely goes to waste, and Saturday is generally chore and errand day so though we may get out into the sun we don’t get to enjoy it. It’s just the backdrop. Sunday, by tradition, is the quiet day, a day with no ambitions, a day to be enjoyed.

Tomorrow is a holiday, Patriot’s Day, when we commemorate the Battles of Lexington and Concord. Paul Revere and William Dawes will make their way on horseback to warn everyone the British are coming. This time around, though, state troopers will escort the riders. There is also a reenactment of the Battle on Lexington Green which begins around 5:30 and later, at 9, is one at the Old North Bridge in Concord. Tomorrow is also the marathon. This is the first year in a long time I haven’t worked it, but my back prevents it; instead, I’ll watch the Red Sox. Their game begins at 11 because of the marathon.

This is April vacation week for kids. When I worked, I always went to Europe for the week, to one country or city. They were adult trips: no backpacks or hostels or sleeping on night busses. Usually we rented a car and travelled all over. Portugal is still my favorite trip, but I did love Belgium and the Netherlands. The scariest ride was in the fog through the Black Forest. I couldn’t see the road more than a few feet ahead of the car, and I’d have been doomed if not for the white line. The prettiest rides were through the Ardennes and in the Netherlands with its windmills. My parents were my fellow travelers, and they were great fun. My dad and I played cards every night after dinner while my mother worked on her crossword puzzles. They were amiable travelers and didn’t really care which road we took. All of if was new to us. They never balked at any restaurant and were willing to try new foods. I drove and my mother was the navigator. My father thought he was, but he butchered every language so my mother would repeat the city where we were going, and it never ever sounded even close to what my father had said. He never caught on.

” I don’t want to sound pretentious, but I love art, I like to go to museums, and I like to read books.”

March 12, 2013

The morning started poorly. First was a call at 8:15 which woke me up. I didn’t answer, and the party didn’t leave a message. No self-respecting person calls before nine. Ann Landers would have been horrified. Luckily, I fell back to sleep, woke up close to ten, leapt out of bed, washed face, brushed teeth, got dressed and left, before morning coffee, to a fasting blood test. I mumbled and groused the whole way. Afterwards, I got coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts and treated myself to a lemon donut then came home and read the papers. That brings us to now.

What about the weather you ask? Well, let’s see. It’s damp and, of course, it’s cloudy. Outside my window is grim: dead leaves, brown and grey branches and the clouds, always the clouds. I am going to change into my cozies and stay home the rest of the day. I have no ambition and I don’t care.

I am a member of the Museum of Fine Arts. I seldom go, but I like supporting the museum. It is my parents I can thank for giving me and my sisters and brother a love for museums. I remember going to the Peabody Museum at Harvard and seeing the outrigger hanging from the ceiling. I also remember the ape heads in jars. They were my favorites. Kids like gross stuff. The Museum of Fine Arts had the sarcophagi, and I loved that room. The Mummy had always been a favorite movie, and I imagined Imhotep having been buried alive in one of the sarcophagus on display at that museum. How neat it would have been to see him dragging his wrappings as he moved through the museum’s rooms.

On my first weekend in Accra during training, I went to the National Museum and dragged a couple of friends with me. They balked a bit, but I convinced them that a museum is always the best first stop, the place to learn more about a country’s culture and its past, but at that museum I was amazed to see so much of the present displayed as artifacts of the past. The exhibits of regalia and traditional cloth were historical, but they were also contemporary. You could still see the same cloth being worn, especially the kente and adrinka, mostly by men all around Ghana, a country of traditions.

I  have a fun memory of a museum we, my sister, my parents and I, went to in Belgium, in Waterloo. We paid our money and went inside the worst museum any of us had ever seen. The roof leaked, and there were puddles of water along the floor and in front of the exhibits, but I use the term exhibits loosely. There were half-dressed mannequins, poorly done drawings of battles and imitation drums and swords. All we could do was laugh. We had been bilked. Luckily, though, we later found the real museum. I remember being horrified by the tools the surgeons used and I remember Wellington’s bed. I was surprised he was so short. I expected him to be much taller, maybe even a giant.