About here I thought a change of pace and focus might be desirable. And so let me begin with some observations from times my family visited Europe when I was young. It began just after World War II. I was very young during the war and could not grasp the horror. I saw films but in person it was quite different.
Of course there were no Nazis goose-stepping around. There were people working to put their lives back in order. In London we had dinner with a doctor friend of my father and his family. It was cold cuts. There was still rationing and meat was precious.
London itself was a shock. Yes, I had seen pictures, but walking through cleared streets with great piles of rubble on all sides was humbling.The people were pleasant and welcoming but, even after all these years, I have to say there was a sense of silence as if they were trying to regain a view of what the future might be.
Rather than go into greater detail and sequence, let me just touch on some recollections.
Paris was pristine and beautiful. I mentioned earlier seeing a haunted shop girl and I’m sure there was an undercurrent I could not appreciate. It has to take time to recover from such a dreadful occupation. I know the answer but thought about the absence of a statue in a square to thank the German general who declined to act on Hitler’s orders to destroy Paris.
In a later trip we went to Germany. By then repair was well under way. The people were generally welcoming. I think the fact that the Marshall Plan helped them recover must have been crucial. In Munich I saw my father talking at length with a man he was buying a camera from who was deeply scarred. He had been a tank commander during the war and was forthright. Outside I could see deeply scarred buildings sitting next to glossy new buildings. Scars of all kinds were everywhere.
We encountered another component of lasting conflict. We went to a restaurant for lunch and were seated. Nothing else happened. We were ignored. We finally simply left understanding that not everyone was going to be welcoming after such a conflict. Devastation of all kinds can be enduring.
Looking back I can see that those trips were unlike anything else I experienced. Too often we simply go somewhere and hang out at a resort. On those trips we had in depth experiences for ourselves and those around us. We could not know the full extent of the personal suffering nor did we really want to know.
But the richness of cultures in Europe ofter lead us to dreams. Depending upon your age there will be dreams which are touched and enhanced. In Rome I loved to see the Alfa Romeos streaking around the streets. Their guttural sound was stirring. Of course there were the romantic films at the time. And so at night I could lie in bed listening to the echoes of the sounds of these sprightly cars and dream of driving one someday while I appreciated the lovely young woman next to me.
I’ll leave it there. I just seemed to have needed to share a little of things from long ago which give glimmers of our lives, who we are, and instruct us. They deserve gathering and consideration.
What are your most precious memories?
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