Monday, May 25, 2015

When We Went to France, part 1

This is the family in 1995 at Oise-Aisne American Cemetery. It’s east of Paris. Google Maps says it’s in Seringes-et-Nesles, but I don’t remember that name.

We had rented a really lovely car and driven from wherever it was our plane had landed (anybody remember?) to Oise-Aisne. We couldn’t find a place to eat, so we bought some bread at the French equivalent of a truck stop. What we didn’t know was that it was raw dough to be cooked at home. Timmy ate quite a bit and then threw up. Yay for family stories, right?

We also couldn’t find a hotel the previous night, so we slept in the car in the cemetery parking lot. It was a comfortable car, but no car is comfortable for sleeping in. Rosie slept deeply but apparently had bad dreams. In the middle of the night, she cried out, “Mrs. White! Mrs. White! Wait for me!” (This was during the summer after Rosie had had Mrs. White as a teacher.) She woke me up, which was good, because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to vouch for the veracity of this embarrassing story.

Of course, the real reason we were at the cemetery was to see Joyce Kilmer’s grave. He was Jonathan’s paternal grandfather. When the cemetery opened in the morning, we went over to the cemetery’s office to ask where his grave was. The American guy who was working there said he could look it up and what’s your grandfather’s name? We told him. He said, “Well, I can tell you that without looking it up. More people come here looking for his grave than for anybody else’s.” After taking us to the grave, he took several pictures of us, including the one you see here.

Joyce Kilmer (we always call him by his name rather than “Grandaddy,” what with none of his grandchildren having known him) had volunteered for the war practically as soon as the US got into it, even though he had small children at home. One of his children had just died and another was born several days after his departure. Jonathan’s daddy was the oldest. He was eight when his dad went to war and nine when he died.

My grandfather-in-law really threw himself into soldiering. He got himself transferred to military intelligence (hazardous duty) and was killed by a sniper during the Second Battle of the Marne. Earlier that day, he had been leading a party to find a German machine gun. He was 31.

Yes, I thank him for his service and for having made the ultimate sacrifice. But I cannot imagine how he could have left a pregnant wife and bereaved family, especially given that he didn’t have to go. I have complicated feelings about the military anyway, but that’s another story or nineteen. Another day, maybe.


  1. Replies
    1. Ecstatic. :-P

      For those who weren't in on the FB convo, Rosie is saying that we landed in Luxembourg.