On Wednesday we visited the D-Day beaches. We looked out over Omaha and Pont du Hoc and the somber sites that changed the world’s perspective of Normandy forever. We stood amongst the craters of hallowed earth blasted by US bombs and under bunkers from which German soldiers slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Allied troops. These cliffs saw some of history’s most devastating battles. But before we saw those cliffs, something incredible happened…
As we were leaving our cozy little cottage at La Beauverie (Bissay’s, as it’s known), I mentioned how I’d been thinking about my grandfather, whom we all called Poppy. He was a member of the Fighting 36, an American soldier in the second World War. He was awarded a Purple Heart after surviving a gunshot to his back in the south of France. He was Sicilian, with tight curls and a secret meatball recipe. He traveled from Italy into France and across Europe to liberate, and he was younger than I am now when he did it.
This morning we were walking down the hill towards our car, ready to drive to the coast to see Omaha, when M stopped and turned.
“Hey, look” he pointed. I was a few steps behind, but immediately recognized the orange-red blossom. A single red poppy poked up through the overgrown grass, softly waving in the breeze.
We had walked up and down this hill numerous times in the past few days at La Beauverie. There were daisies, dandelions, and camomile. Spiky purple clovers exploded up in clusters, and soft lacy elderflowers sprayed the entire property with their cottony cloud. This bright flower stood alone, beckoning.
When I approached and bent down, I was surprised yet again. The dress I’d chosen to wear that day, one of very favorites (I call it my “lady dress” for it’s retro, feminine style), is printed with- yes, poppies. Can you believe I’d never realized what type of flower they were before this moment?
It’s hard to describe what I felt upon connecting all of these things, or seeing the fields full of fiery flowers around the beaches of Normandy. To my shock, when we returned to the estate tonight, my poppy had been trimmed away with many of the other wild flowers by the property’s landscapers. Though I admit I’d been looking forward to visiting my bold blossom again that evening, it didn’t make me sad exactly. It felt right. My poppy came, and did what it- what he-needed to do. My heart is full.
final photo by Michael Collins.