Today my son is in Luxembourg. His band is doing a show and will be gone shortly and I wonder if he will feel the change in atmosphere as he has traveled through Europe. I wonder if he will feel the hospitality we felt when we visited this little country. His visit prompted my thoughts about this lovely little haven of welcome in a world where Americans are not always beloved.
I was there in 1991 and today many of those who loved Americans are no longer with us. Our WWII folk are slipping away alarmingly fast. We had been touring Germany and before we left we decided to stay a few days and take in Luxembourg, Belgium and France. It had been a good tour with friendly people and occasional surprises. Surprises that were fun, but costly.
One surprise, in eastern Germany where no English was spoken, we pointed to menu items asking about what they might be and finally after shrugging because they and I could not understand one another, I ordered a mysterious dish. A short time later many dishes were brought to our table, in fact, each one we had pointed to. Our bill was staggeringly high and our tour guide was unsympathetic. “You must pay it, she advised, it’s your error.” And we did, sharing generously with anyone who would help eat it. Later in France we did not realize the French Franc was different from Belgium Franc and our credit card later showed our purchased items were about nine times as expensive as we had believed.
But in Luxembourg our surprise was a change in attitude towards us. In other countries they were polite, but distant. Here, everywhere we went people smiled at us. We passed many memorials dedicated to Americans. American military tanks surrounded by flowers, American soldiers on pedestals with plaques we could not read. A country still grateful to us for our assistance during WWII fifty years previous. We felt beloved.
We took a winding path up a hill to tour a castle and the walk was gorgeous. We passed farms and lovely views of the valley. The road was barely paved and the little homes we passed were picturesque. As we neared the castle we passed a vineyard where an older man and woman were cutting grapes. They heard our chatter as we were passing by.
“American? they asked You are Americans?” We nodded and they came down to the fence bearing bunches of grapes for us. “Thank you, thank you. We are grateful to have our country.” I was overcome emotionally. I had tears that I would be the recipient of such love that I was not entitled to. I stood proudly by my father who had served and my mother who had lost a brother in the war. We received the gift humbly. We remarked how lovely their country was, how delicious the grapes. They waved good bye as we moved on towards the castle.
It wasn’t the castle that was the highlight as we had planned, but the interaction with the older couple who gave us a special memory I’ll always remember.
My son is there tonight and playing his keyboard and running about on stage entertaining teenagers. Will he feel the difference? Will he experience respect we received twenty years ago? I wonder. I hope so.