coming together – a commemoration tale

by Sharon Santoni

my-french-country-home-commemoration2The final scene

Judy, Maryann and Elizabeth sat at their table in the little restaurant in Giverny.  They were talking quietly, reflecting on how their individual journeys had crossed paths to bring them to this point, and how sad they would  be to separate the next morning.

Judy stretched her arms, a little weary,  “….although I have to admit that the trip has been pretty tiring, so it will be nice to get home to my family … but for now lets just enjoy this sunshine and our lazy lunch together”   They all smiled and lifted their glasses “cheers, and here’s to a reunion, one day”.

They sipped the chilled white wine, and looked again at the menu, wondering whether to choose a dessert or a fromage.   The waiter arrived,  carrying an ice bucket which he placed carefully  on the edge of the table, before removing a corkscrew from his black apron pocket and opening the bottle of wine.

The women looked at each other, “excuse me, but we didn’t order any more wine”

“Non Madame, I know zees, but it is ze Monsieur, over zair, he asked me to bring you a bottle of wine”

“What?!   Why did he do that?   Which man are you talking about ?”

The waiter turned and lifted his arm in the direction of  the corner of the leafy terrace.   At a little blue metal table for two, sat an elderly couple, with rounded shoulders, and sticks propped against each of their chairs.  They were looking at the women, and smiling, their bright blue eyes wonderfully intense for their fragile demeanor.

Elizabeth raised her glass and smiled, and mouthed “Merci beaucoup” across the terrace. The gentleman put down his glass, clasped his hands to his chest and said in English ” We never forget”

But  I have got ahead of myself, this is the end of my story, and you need to know the whole tale from the start and how this happy scene came to be.

Judy, Maryann and Elizabeth had never met until two weeks before this lunch.  They lived on different continents and had unwittingly been drawn to the same spot at the same time.

blue chairs in garden

Judy’s tale

Judy was from Sydney, Australia,  a single lady, with a good job and passionate about her garden.  She came to France as part of a gardening tour, and had enjoyed a wonderful week visiting gardens and domains in the north of France.   Once the tour was over, she prolonged her stay and rented a car, determined to see a little more of the Normandy countryside at her own speed.

She was also interested in her family history, and knew that her uncle had died as a very young boy in a plane crash in Normandy.  Searching for his gravestone would lend a special significance to her few days alone  and she was wondering how she’d feel when she found the spot.

Of course she had never met Harry, he was only 20 when he died so far from home, and she wasn’t even a twinkle in her dad’s eye, but his name had always been part of the family history, part of family chat around the table, and  especially dear to her dad, the younger brother.   While planning her trip to Normandy, she had mentioned to her dad,   “I thought I’d try to find Harry’s grave when I’m in Normandy”,  her father smiled and turned away, she thought she saw a tear form at the corner of his eye.

normandy coastline view

Maryann’s tale

Maryann was travelling alone.  She was a history teacher back home in Missouri, and her intense schedule, in  class rooms full of unruly teenagers meant that when her holiday season came she was glad for a little space.

France was her favourite destination, she had been here as a student many years ago, and tried to return every three or four years ever since.   She knew Paris well and  she had  often stayed in the south of France, the romance of Provence drawing her like a magnet, but for this trip she decided to do something totally different and head up to Normandy.

She knew little about the area, the word ‘Normandy’ being synonymous with the landing beaches in her mind, but she was pleasantly surprised.   The lush green countryside, the beautiful chateaux and charming seaside towns won her over very quickly.

chateau and canola fields in normandy

Henri’s tale

Henri was too young to fight in the second world war.   His family lived in Rouen and were lucky to survive when the town was heavily bombed in May 44.   He was only 17, still so young, but exhausted by having spent  his teen years in occupied France, where food was scarce and damage to towns, villages and families extensive.

His own family had suffered heavy losses, his two cousins, an uncle and his own father had all died fighting for their country.   Normandy was a sad place, too many young men were gone for ever, the others sent off to the front lines and an uncertain destiny.

When the war ended in 1945 he was in Rouen, the news arrived and the relief was palpable,   … that evening he joined friends to wander through the rubble filled streets, the situation felt unreal, hard to believe that the war was truly ended when there were such scenes of devastation all around.

They turned a corner near the cathedral and came nose to nose with a small group of young French girls, walking arm in arm, chatting happily, obviously also wanting to find a way to celebrate the end of the war.  One of the girls had pretty curly hair, and deep blue eyes.   He had no way of knowing that she would be his companion for the rest of his life.

Elizabeth’s tale

Elizabeth was freshly divorced, travelling alone in Normandy, getting her thoughts and emotions into place.  Normandy wasn’t far from her native England, and she had simply driven across the channel, map in hand, a suitcase of adaptable clothes in the trunk of the car, following her nose from village, to landmark, to garden to coastline.  Enjoying the freedom of independent travel, independent decision.

While staying at a little B&B with a blue door, she had looked through their recommendations of things to do, and found herself wandering down a lane to explore the Commonwealth cemetery along the valley.  Her host had explained that in the second world war a plane had crashed on the hill behind the house and the eight young men on board were all killed, and buried together in a cemetery not far from the house.

It was a lovely morning, and after breakfast Elizabeth set off on foot, glad for some exercise and glad to have the cemetery as a goal to walk towards.   The road was narrow, and wound its way through a small wooded area and then between wide open fields planted with pale green barley, shimmering in the breeze.    Elizabeth stopped now and again to bend over and look more closely at a road side flower, or pause and enjoy the view.  ….

fields of barley in evening light

This tale will be continued next Monday, the 72nd anniversay of D-day, I hope you’ll come back to find out how these four people came to be meet and share a moment together in Giverny.


On another note, my USA book tour is coming up fast, and each Monday until I leave I’ll be giving a brief introduction to three of the venues.  Today let me take you to Florida and Georgia.

usa book tour announcement

I start my tour on the evening of 23rd June at Hearth and Soul,  in Tallahassee.  I love the fact that this shop is so much more than a store, totally supportive of their clients and the community.  They offer complimentary clinics to enhance their clients’ well being, and believe in the importance of partnering with local businesses.    The link to the Hearth and Soul is right HERE


The 24th June sees me signing books at Thomasville GA, in the lovely book shop called The Bookshelf.   I’m enjoying their instagram feed and I love the fact that Annie, the owner,still does a story-time hour and reads to children!     You can find the link to the  bookshelf event HERElogo bookshelfOn the evening  of the 24th I shall be sitting on a porch at Sundog Books in Seaside FL. I’ll sign books as I admire the white sandy beach.  I have always longed to live in a house with a porch, such a shame that Gibson and Ghetto can’t come with me and run on the beach.  You are welcome to reply to the Sundog Books Event HERE

sundog logo



Kiki May 30, 2016 - 6:13 pm

This is a totally wonderful story unfolding in front of our eyes and I thought I had the wrong date when I read next Monday…. I can’t possibly wait a whole week to know ‘la suite’…. !
Your blog is known to me a little time only but quickly advancing to a ‘must read’ even though I don’t really have the time for it…. Such is the draw of your writing and your photos. You’re a treasure I’ve found and I’m happy to ‘know’ you via your posts.
I also admire the choice of bookshops you’re going to visit on your book signing tour…. All those places seem such lovely and wonder-full…. gems to gather amongst book lovers and readers! Wishing you every success and a happy time, Kiki nr Paris
PS: And right now wouldn’t be a terribly good time to visit Giverny, it’s raining non-stop, strong winds and all my lovely, lovely roses on the verge of totally opening up are hanging down, sodden with rain, beaten by the wind and brown with frustration…. zut zut zut alors!

Sue cooper May 31, 2016 - 8:40 am

Me too Kiki, only just known to me also.
Sharon you tell an enchanting tale, we are all on tenterhooks.

It is a virtual experience, and the only way I can journey around France at the present time.

Thank you . You have touched our hearts with your blog.
Best sue

Taste of France May 30, 2016 - 6:14 pm

Wonderful characters. Is this fact or fiction????

Sharon Santoni May 30, 2016 - 10:11 pm

Fictional characters inspired by true facts 🙂

jan July 31, 2016 - 5:27 am

Feeling anxious/? Wanting to continue the story. but I can’t find a continuation. Also, disappointed that I never read the conclusion of the Christmas story about the young girl who broke off her engagement to stay in Paris. Then finally getting a note from an old flame to meet. Where is the continuing story??

Nancy May 30, 2016 - 6:34 pm

Not to be a pedant but Victory in Europe was in May 1945 and VJ day in August 1945. I cannot imagine that VJ day would have been quite as significant to someone in France whose war had been over for several months by then. My other quibble is that a very young boy is an 8-10 year old, not a 20 year old who is a young man.

Judy May 30, 2016 - 7:38 pm

Nancy, You call yourself “being a pedant” but I beg to differ…. For those of us who have lost loved ones in war ANYONE who is kind and thoughtful enough create a remembrance whether it be historically or chronologically correct touches our hearts. Perhaps in the future you may use some restraint when attempting to correct others.
Sharon thank you for remembering and will look forward to Monday.

Jill Nordin June 4, 2016 - 2:51 am

Way to go Judy! People rush so to make corrections sometime and I think perhaps they lose a lot from the story. Sharon, this is an awesome story! You are a very good writer and I see bigger things in store for you!


Maureen May 30, 2016 - 8:07 pm

Nancy I doubt that any country who had been in a war would find any commemoration insignificant in “several months.” 72 years later France is still remembering.
Sharon thank you for this beautiful story.

Maureen May 30, 2016 - 8:22 pm

Nancy, I doubt that any country that has been experiencing a horrific war would find a memorial of any kind insignificant after “several months.” 72 years later France is still remembering.
Sharon, thank you for this beautiful and timely story. My Dad was one of the men who landed on the beaches in Normandy.

Sharon Santoni May 30, 2016 - 7:22 pm

Hi Nancy, thank you for spotting my typo, of course the war ended in 1945.

I agree that a 20 year old would be a young man, but as you can see from my story, I call Henri a boy because he was 17, and yes, that is still so young to be experiencing such hardship.

Its great to have readers who keep me on my toes


Vicky from Athens May 30, 2016 - 7:24 pm

So thrilled to see another one of your delightful stories come up this morning! Can’t wait for the next installation. And your photos are just beautiful. Thanks so much for getting my Memorial Day started off this way.

Peggy May 30, 2016 - 7:25 pm

I’m totally hooked…please hurry!!!

Emily May 30, 2016 - 7:33 pm

So love these stories and look forward to the next one. Excited to hear about your book tour. You will be in this southern girl’s happy place when you visit Sundog Books in Seaside, FL One of my favorite book stores. Hope I can get down to say hello. While you are there be sure to enjoy some of the delicious food served up next door at Great Southern. You will love Seaside, and all the communities along 30A……….

DianeD May 30, 2016 - 7:33 pm

Accurate or not I don’t care just keep on writing. I love your stories. Can’t wait to read more. Good luck on your book tour. Wish you were coming to Massachusetts!!

Our French Oasis May 30, 2016 - 7:44 pm

What a great start to this story and I absolutely love the photos you have chosen to go with it. Susan x

Pamela May 30, 2016 - 7:46 pm

As always such a great story. Looking forward to read the rest when you return from your
book tour. You must be so excited.. Have a wonderful time be safe and enjoy this adventure you will be on.

Linda Quast May 30, 2016 - 7:54 pm

I love this story. While in Giverny one year ago in June, we wandered into the little cemetery and saw the grave of those young British airmen who died when their plane crashed in the area. It was a very touching experience for my husband and me.
I look forward to the next installment of the story.

Thank you, Sharon,


Derick May 30, 2016 - 11:11 pm

Linda, I too love this story; how grand that you were able to visit the cemetery! We must never forget that our freedoms were not won without uncountable horrific costs.

suzanna May 30, 2016 - 8:08 pm

OH MY GOSH, Sharon! You are going to be in Seaside, FL., I lived off 30A last year!
If you have time, Bastide is wonderful there, (flowers) small and I think you would enjoy it. So much to do there, George’s at Aly’s Beach and their clothing store! I am going to try to make it there with hope in meeting YOU! WOW, this is unbelievealbe and so exciting!

Sharon Santoni May 30, 2016 - 8:15 pm

Thank you Suzanna, it would be lovely to meet you at Seaside.

If you have a minute, you may like to register on the eventbrite link below. It doesn’t bind you in any way, simply allows the venue to plan for appropriate numbers

best wishes

Brijou May 30, 2016 - 8:26 pm

Très touchée par cette histoire ( j’habite Rouen depuis plus de 20 ans) j’en attend la suite avec impatience… Nous sommes fort reconnaissants pour ce que tous ces jeunes américains ont fait pour la défense de notre liberté . Leçon de courage et d’héroïsme. J’y pense chaque année au moment de l’anniversaire du D-Day.

Sally Leonard May 30, 2016 - 9:12 pm

Sharon, as always, your blog remains my favorite. I love your stories, your photos and especially tales and pictures of Gibson and Ghetto! Can’t wait for the next installment of your story!

Rhea Gary May 30, 2016 - 9:22 pm

Sharon, I am so excited that you are speaking to my Garden Club in Cashiers, NC.
I look forward to your blog every week and still find it hard to believe that I am going to meet you in tiny wonderful Cashiers.

Sharon Santoni May 31, 2016 - 7:40 pm

And I am so excited to come to Cashiers, it will be such fun to see gardens up close on the other side of the world!

I look forward to meeting you Rhea, thank you


PS you are welcome to register on the RSVP site for the cashiers event,

MaryD May 30, 2016 - 9:29 pm

Sharon, your stories are wonderful always. Thank you for the remembrance.
My Uncle Ed landed at Normandy but would never talk about it. I was born in 1940 and
although I was very young my memories are very vivid.
You were a gentle woman in your response to Nancy. A role model for us all
especially Nancy.

Jennifer May 30, 2016 - 9:31 pm

I want to turn the page and read more!!! Thank you.

Emm May 30, 2016 - 9:40 pm

I got as far as the man saying “We never forget” and started to cry. My father was in that part of the world in late 1944 and ’45.
Now, to read the rest of your story.
Thank you.

Michelle May 30, 2016 - 9:57 pm

As always enjoy your writing and beautiful pictures. Thank you!

Madeline May 30, 2016 - 10:06 pm

Dearest Sharon,
I love your story, especially on Memorial Day weekend.
In 2014 a very dear older gentleman in Giverny shared his wine with some
of us and said “we never forget”. To this’s day, I still get a huge lump in my throat in rememberance of such a kind gesture.
None of us should ever forget all the young men who gave their lives so that the world could be free from oppression and madness.
I can’t wait for your story to continue. You have a beautiful gift. Thanks so much!

Sharon Santoni May 30, 2016 - 10:10 pm

You guessed right Madeline, it is that very lunch that we shared together, and that gentleman’s gift that inspired this short story …. I hope I do it justice

warmest wishes to you


Sylvia Faye May 31, 2016 - 12:49 am

What a nice Monday morning surprise to find you are gracing us with another one of your delightful stories and it comes on a day that a dear old gentleman from our parish just died early this am and he is in his 90’s and a WWII veteran and a Scotsman. How approproriate to read this story today.
Also my husband’s youngest uncle died in WWII in Pershaw, England and a great-nephew took all the partiulars from his mother and my husband’s rememberances and wrote a book of his life…known as “Bidu” to his family.
Your pictures that go with your stories make us feel as though we are in the story with the characters. May you be blessed.

Judy Franco May 31, 2016 - 12:56 am

When I read a story I don’t enjoy it for its chronological accuracies, but for how it makes me feel, how I relate to the characters. I look forward to more of your lovely story and how it unfolds. Thank you, Sharon. I wish you were coming to New Jersey. I would love to meet you!

Evelyne Williams May 31, 2016 - 2:06 am

Sharon, I am already hooked on this story and look forward to the next installment.
On another note, did you ever finish the story from around Christmas? If you did, I missed it and have been searching your site for the other chapters.

Heather McPherson May 31, 2016 - 2:25 am

How absolutely exciting to find another of your glorious stories to greet me this freezing cold morning in a Sydney north west suburb. Your stories warm my heart … I can’t wait for next weeks chapter

Anne Riordan May 31, 2016 - 3:39 am

I loved your last story so much and am thrilled you are writing again. Good luck with your book tour in the states. Wish I had time to travel. Anne

Jeannine Eitel May 31, 2016 - 3:40 am

I cannot wait to read the rest of the story. Three weeks ago my husband and I returned from visiting Normandy and Paris. My husband loves history and visiting the beaches of Normandy was a very emotional experience. We also were in Giverny visiting Monet’s beautiful gardens and house, Vernon, Rouen and Bayeux. Seeing these beautiful places mentioned in your story tugs at my heart. I love your part of the world Sharon.

Deb May 31, 2016 - 3:49 am

I so look forward to your wonderful stories .. Next Monday can’t come too soon, thank you ..

Leslie in Oregon May 31, 2016 - 6:15 am

Best wishes on your book tour! We in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. will miss seeing you here, but we have high hopes for a future trip.
Thank you for adding so much to our remembrances this Memorial Day in the U.S. with the first chapter of your story, Leslie

Carol Shockley May 31, 2016 - 3:53 pm

Your story is wonderful and how appropriate for this Memorial Day in the United States. It reminded me of an experience many years ago, when my husband and I were traveling on a train in Switzerland. My husband and I were chatting along in English, as my College French was a bit rusty, and an elderly man who was sharing our compartment occasionally gazed at us with bright eyes. Suddenly he spoke in French to my husband and they chatted for a minute, and then this white-haired, dignified gentleman startled me by grabbing both my hands and started thanking me earnestly in French. I begged my husband for a translation of their conversation. My husband had told the gentleman that my father, an American, had fought in World War II, and this elderly French gentleman was thanking me profusely for my father’s service and for helping his country. It brought tears to my eyes as this stranger and I had made a surprising connection.

Lydia Langston May 31, 2016 - 4:10 pm

Your writing is wonderful. I can’t wait for the next installment. Bravo to you Sharon.

Karen Britton June 1, 2016 - 3:38 pm

Sharon-Do you still plan to be in Marietta, Georgia on the 26th of June? My daughter lives there and I was planning a visit. I do so hope to see you there.

Cathy Briggs June 1, 2016 - 9:38 pm

What a wonderful story, I can’t wait to read more! Sharon, I can’t begin to tell you how much I love your blog, and love you! I so hope your US tour brings you to Texas – I would love to meet you! I have a true French Country house sitting in the middle of the Texas Hill Country, and you inspire every detail I put into it. Thank you! Cathy

Marla June 3, 2016 - 5:06 am

Oh but this is wonderful!! Thank you. I have a question. Is this book you are touring with the same I purchased this past year or is it a follow up edition? I still plan on seeing you in Fullerton CA.

Vicki June 5, 2016 - 5:07 am

I LOVE your stories! Thank you!

Sheryl Kirk June 7, 2016 - 11:58 pm

What a perfect beach read. I am on Nevada Beach in South Lake Tahoe with my phone and found this. I just hope my battery doesn’t die before I read part 2. Thank you, my French friend.

Joanne June 13, 2016 - 3:11 am

Wow it’s a beautiful raining day here & I’m just catching up on my emails. I’ve just read the first part of this story and cried. My Grandfather lost his 2 (British) brothers who were shot down, one in Normandy the other near the German border!!!


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