I visited Lembach, France in 1988 and that experience has been with me throughout the years. My experiences in Lembach made their way into “Christmas in Bayeux.”
Lembach is a small town in the Alsace-Lorraine region of France just over the German/French border. I was dispatched along with a fellow soldier, Private East to pick up a squad of soldiers in Pirmasens, Germany. East and I took a detour and ended up in Lembach.
Needless to say, we were an odd sight, walking around the town in our US Army military uniforms. The locals stared at us – hard. As we walked around the small town square an older man approached us. He spoke no English. I had my “French for Travelers” guide and my pronunciation was decent so I engaged him. He enthusiastically shook our hands. “Américains?” “Oui,” I answered. He proceeded to thank East and I not only for our service, but also for the service of our grandfathers who liberated France from Germany.
It was a moving experience that humbled both of us.
It was lunchtime and East and I went to the local café for lunch. With my trusty “French for Travelers,” I ordered our food – salad and sandwiches. We were quite the attraction in the café. Patrons stared at us. In fact, several of them approached us while we ate and thanked us. Before we left, the manager came to us. He told us our meal was free.
East and I wouldn’t have it. We had francs for the occasion. Between the manager’s English and my French, I learned the residents of the town loved Americans. In World War II, we had indeed liberated them from Germany’s occupation. We were still heroes to them – 40 years later.
East and I were truly humbled by how the town embraced us. As we made our way back to our military van, we thanked God for this rare opportunity to visit France.
This experience found it’s way into my story. Enjoy the excerpt:
She pushed two wooden double doors open and they walked into a wide open-spaced entrance hall. “Is this a museum?”
“Oui. It houses our best known prize – the Bayeux Tapestry.”
“What is that?” His voice was laced in curiosity.
“Dix Euros,” said the clerk. He was in his mid-thirties and wore a blue uniform.
Aiden put his hand over Noel’s hand as she reached for her purse. “I’ll get it.”
“Vous êtes Américain?”
“Oui,” said Aiden.
The clerk held out his hand. Aiden slowly took it, surprised by the gesture. What was he doing?
“Américains we like. World War II, yes? Merci – thank you,” the clerk said in halting English.
Aiden was stunned. Noel said this occurred, but he didn’t think it would happen to him.
“De Rein. Thank you, sir.”
“Non, Monsieur, merci. Keep your money.”
“Oh, I insist.”
“Oui, thank you, merci.”
Noel smiled at the clerk, thread her arm through Aiden’s, and they walked into the museum. There were a few people milling about in the halls, but it wasn’t as busy as he thought it would be. Maybe everyone was at the Christmas markets.
He paused before they got far. “You said—”
She gave him an easy smile. “You handled that well.”
BLURB: Aiden Seward is an Iraq war vet who has gone to the Beaches of Normandy to heal his wounded heart. Noel Rousseau was the girl he knew as an exchange student years ago. Can Noel help heal the ache in Aiden’s heart?
BOOK TEASER ON YOU TUBE: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-muZ0dhOvSE
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