"But, Madame, all shops are closed! It is May 8!"
And when I looked puzzled: "La paix, Madame! Peace! The end of the war!"
Of course: VE Day, May 8, 1945! Victory in Europe, date of Germany's unconditional surrender. I remembered the delirious celebration at the high school where I was a senior and many male classmates were in uniform.
How much greater the relief here in the valley of the Rhine where the towns had been so badly bombed.
And then . . . I almost had a wonderful moment of international friendship. Down the street thundered a herd of 30 huge motorcycles. And streaming from the back of several of them were small American flags!
How surprising, too. In Italy people had occasionally asked John if he'd fought in the war, and thanked him for that. Never once in France!
Hugely gratified, I asked one of the bikers, "Do you always carry an American flag on May 8?"
He stared at me. "Toujours. Every day. The American flag shows that these are Harley-Davidsons."
Ah well . . . at least they love us for something.