The 26 eclectic-genre short stories for my #AtoZChallenge are excerpts from travelogue notes by
novel character Gahlen, who first appeared in SHARDS OF MEMORY – Oral History in a Heartbeat.
Each A-to-Z daily post is a complete, stand-alone tale.
|Villa Gracia, located south of Namur in Wallonia|
VILLA GRACIA and the BATTLE OF THE BULGE
My first morning on Belgian soil, I sat on the hotel veranda, enjoying the peaceful flow of the River Meuse. Rivers had played an important role in the lives of many ancestors and I took energy from the sight. Gisele, the hotel owner, slipped over with a small pot of coffee for me.
“My husband and I have often received offers to purchase this property,” she told me. “But we spent eighteen months lovingly remodeling the residence and do not plan to sell.”
I replied that the grounds of their beautiful hotel were very relaxing, but it was difficult for people to slow down and appreciate the calm. With that, Gisele took a moment to share with me a bit of history about the area and her life.
“It was a wintry December day in 1944,” she began, the words chilling, but her voice a soothing reminder of my grandparents’ tone as they shared stories with me. “German armies plunged into the semi-mountainous, heavily forested Ardennes region of eastern Belgium and northern Luxembourg. Their goal was to reach the sea, trap allied armies, and impel a negotiated peace on the Western front. The German Offensive achieved total surprise, but nowhere did the American troops give ground without a fight.
“For three days, the determined Americans took a stand. Then the arrival of powerful reinforcements ensured that the ambitious German goal was far beyond reach. In snow and sub-freezing temperatures, the Germans fell short of their objective of reaching the Meuse River on the fringe of the Ardennes. Their tactic created only a Bulge in the American line. They expended irreplaceable men, tanks, and material. Four weeks later, after grim fighting, with heavy losses on both side, the Bulge ceased to exist.”
Gisele halted her story for a moment, merely staring out the porch window. I took a sip of coffee to keep from breaking her silence. When she continued, it was to say something totally unexpected.
“During the fighting, a woman in the Ardennes gave birth to her baby. Unable to safely get the woman to a hospital, American soldiers aided in the delivery of baby Gisele.”
She stood then and returned to whatever had occupied her before she shared with me her personal story. Without a doubt, one of my grandparents had inherited storytelling abilities from Belgian ancestors.