Omaha

13 Apr

6678 Powers Rd is the address where my grandmother lives near Buffalo, New York. As a youth, I would climb trees and shoot homemade bow and arrows. There was a pool. Hot summer days were spent in the shade on a glider, reading old Popular Mechanics magazines and novels fit for 14-year-old boys. Even the warm breeze would join in on my laziness and disregard for time. The breeze, hallowed and unique to my Western NY sanctuary, made sure to say hello a few days ago. 6678 Powers Road exists in France. That address was imprinted on each detail of the scenery, across an entire ocean. The lanky pines with high, sparsely needled boughs and perfectly manicured grass, pitching back and forth. Diverse melodies from a variety of songbirds and the sweet-smelling flora shook the memory of my senses. Warm, not hot. Sunny, but not annoying. In Northern France, spring is breaking into summer.

I start my walk, meandering down a long pavement pathway, ocean views to the north. Horses gallop along the shore, pulling jockeys in chariots, like a tugboat towing a dory. The wind continues it’s greeting, rubbing my shoulders and tussling my hair. A sea breeze creeps in my nostrils, fills my lungs, and circulates through my body. Marcel, from Germany, is testing the limits of his camera shutter, capturing light megapixel by megapixel. The path leads down to the shore, but not before cutting hillsides of heather in two and sweeping through a swamp. The path dumps directly onto a mound of smooth, ovular rocks; shaped by a lifetime of wrestling with the ocean and each other. Each step on the rocks must be counterbalanced to avert a landslide. I pick a few up and put them in my pocket. I make it out to the brackish tide pools, losing my footing in quicksand, recovering and continuing to the waves of the English Channel. An older couple is a few car lengths away, and they are crying. A place like this warrants tears.

Omaha Beach in the Normandy region of France is the highlight of my two-week Iberian Circumnavigation. Walking among the graves of nearly 10,000 Americans who sacrificed their lives, with headstones separated 2 meters by 3 meters, puts ideas of America in my head. I miss the US, all of it. Maine, Oregon, California, Ohio, Indiana. I imagine the backgrounds of all the soldiers. Idahoans, Georgians, Vermonters, Michiganders. Did they have the same nostalgia I am afforded now, in this beautiful place of bright flowers and blooming sun? I doubt it. They had thoughts of home, we can be sure of that. Thoughts of brothers and sisters, favorite trees to snooze under, grandma’s pies. What about the thoughts of what was at hand; for them the present, us the proud past? Swimming with 30 pounds of equipment, applying a tourniquet to a shoulder wound, MAKING IT ACROSS THE BEACH.

I’m fortunate to experience another culture here in London. To see a glimpse of what Spain, Portugal, and France have to offer. It makes Omaha Beach that much more important. In my eyes, these cultural comparisons make the US seem grander, more sovereign. A big drumstick among a pile of small wings. I love our nation. A bald eagle pumps my heart when I see the stars and stripes blowing in the breeze from my grandma’s backyard. All the sacrifice from these brave men. Lazy days in the glider, pre-exam jitters, the nervous pulse of a new experience, studying abroad.

Thank You.

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5 Responses to “Omaha”

  1. Marla Rippey April 13, 2010 at 1:07 pm #

    Steven, you amaze me! The family has long contended that I should be a writer, but it is YOU who had the true talent in our family. I will be first in line to buy the book you are sure to publish one day, so start thinking about how you’re going to sign my copy!

  2. Vanessa LaFond April 22, 2010 at 1:55 am #

    So… Steve.

    I hope this comment finds you in an amazing place to which I hope to vacation at someday. I started reading your Athens blog first since I have been there before… and I just kept reading. I couldn’t stop. I agree completely with your above response by Marla Rippey in that I, too, will be in line for that book you publish one day. I felt as if I was drinking a Guinness in London one minute and looking at the beautiful architecture of the Akropolis the next.

    I do hope you continue writing this blog soon because I couldn’t stop laughing throughout your previous ones. I look forward to some more laughter and good luck on your exams.

    **Vanessa 🙂

    P.S. I absolutely loved the photography youtube… what a fabulous idea.

  3. Marcia Milanoski April 26, 2010 at 10:42 pm #

    Steven,
    As much as I wanted to visit you there, reading your blogs is a close second. You have been able to see and do so much in a few short months and we are all richer from your wonderful way of sharing your experiences in words and pictures. There isn’t a better feeling though, than being a proud parent, and that we are….
    Can’t wait to see you..
    Good luck on those finals!

  4. Aunt Marceille April 30, 2010 at 11:42 am #

    Steven, your writings are magical. Thank you so much!!! for sharing your journey with us…and your memories. You are at a perfect place in your life to do this…and you will never forget it. It’s also inspiring to hear that as you visit other countries……you appreciate home and miss America. VivaLaAmerica!!!

  5. Grace August 13, 2010 at 3:07 pm #

    Steve DB Milanoski-
    You are such a talented writer. I have a feeling you leave as much of an impact on the places you visit as they do on you. Don’t ever change! Cali. misses you already…
    Grace

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