by Elaine Reardon

Early June brings my sister’s birthday and memories of D-Day. For those of you who didn’t have a father who landed on the beaches of Normandy, I’ll explain that my sister’s birthday is June 3, and D-Day quickly follows on June 6. While one usually doesn’t celebrate D-Day, because it was so important in my Dad’s memory, my sister and I still commemorate it by calling to say “Hello, It’s D-Day.”

Since my father passed away, important books and movies about D-Day have been popular. But my memories are quite different. They are safe snuggly stories I heard when my father tucked us into bed. The telling was age-appropriate, and I felt very safe with him.

Many of the stories took place where Dad camped out in Dartmoor, near the river. It was beautiful there, and I suspect it reminded him of Ireland. It was certainly the closest he’d been to home since he’d left. He told me stories of the waiting. There were tall ferns growing, rabbits ran by, and Dad was once lucky enough to get a chocolate bar in his rations. It was a special treat, and he packed it away in his pup tent to save for special. Later, when he retrieved it, he found the mice had enjoyed it first. It was almost all nibbled away. Each time I nibble on chocolate I think how dear that chocolate bar was and how sometimes we hold onto things that are precious too long.

Dartmoor sounded like paradise. I imagined rabbits and mice dashing through field of ferns and a field filled with small tents to crawl into at night. And all the bright stars above to see. I’d drift off to sleep holding Dad’s hand.

I heard how the troops landed on the beach and scaled the cliffs. Later I heard how they marched into Paris, right by the Eiffel Tower. Dad kept in scant touch with his brothers, all fighting in different countries. I remember one story about his group walking down a country road in France at the same time the Germans were leaving. Everyone was tired, hungry, and on edge. They finally came to a farmhouse but didn’t know who was there. The owners were hiding in the cellar as they didn’t know who was coming down the road. Luckily the family shared their food. Now I share this smattering of old memories with you.

When the war ended Dad returned to Boston and married my mother. After a time, my sister and I came to be, and the stories about D-Day began as each June approached.

Years later I was on a retreat in Totness, England, and I traveled downstream to Dartmoor on a passenger boat. You could have knocked me over with a feather when the captain pointed and said, “That’s where the Yanks were camped waiting for D-Day.” I had come to the field of rabbits, nibbled chocolate, and fern and was finally able to walk here myself.

""Elaine is a poet, herbalist, educator, and member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators. Her chapbook THE HEART IS A NURSERY FOR HOPE won first honors from Flutter Press. Most recently Elaine’s poetry has been published by Crossways Journal, UCLA journal, and Automatic Pilot. She has a website.

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