When I was little we lived in Germany, for two years. I remember castles and excitement, (everything is more exciting when you’re four) and pretzels and travel. Those were good pretzels. And when they’re the size of your head, they’re even BETTER.
Looking back, I find I remember details that I’m sure an older person wouldn’t think significant. Things like running up the stairs, and finding a dead mouse in the flower beds, and poking fuzzy caterpillars that rippled alarmingly. It was all very exciting. We also, because my dad was serving in Fourth Service Battalion, went to war memorials. When you are four you think gun emplacements on cliffs are things to climb on, and you’re more interested in pommes frites in Dieppe than the fact that thousands of your countrymen died on that beach made of interesting rocks. There was one memorial, however, which I remember being serious, even when I was there.
That was Vimy.
When you’re four, the crosses in the cemeteries go on forever. And then you get in the car and drive over past the trees, and there are new crosses. And they go on forever again. I somehow managed to understand the idea that each cross was a person, and it baffled me. For that matter, it still baffles me. There are so many graves. I’m twenty one now, so quite a few of those graves belong to people who were younger than me. It’s one of those things where my mind just can’t take it in.
And then we went up on the memorial, which was huge and windy, and white. Lots of names. I’ve seen pictures, and I want to go back. At the time I just, sadly, remember running around and wondering what the statues were for. Grandeur is wasted on the very young. (Even if I did think I was an adult. :P)
But there was also a section of no man’s land that was kept as is, not landscaped smooth. We went over there and poked around. Have you ever seen a shell hole? It’s like someone has taken an ice cream scoop to the ground. This was almost ninety years later, and you still had to walk along ridges between these gaps in the ground. The proportions I remember are probably incorrect. I remember these half-circles in the ground being so large that you couldn’t quite hear from the other side. And they were really hard to get out of. That was the place that I remember being most, serious. It takes an impressive place to make a four year old feel sober, but that was the most in-awe I remember being until I was about nine. You can read about what things meant, but seeing them in person is sometimes necessary to start to understand. I really, REALLY want to go back.
That’s been a disjointed ramble with little or no point. 😛 War Cemeteries are awe-inspiring. You should go. Oh, and Rose put up some poems on her blog. That you should read.