The rain stopped in its tracks and the summer came down in a billow and I got out my summer dresses. The dogs lay down in the grass high from rain, rolling and frolicking with their limber legs toward heaven as the blue sky pushed its way through the month-long gray clouds. Teenage girls walked bare-armed, not yet tattooed, and young women strolled bare-legged in vintage print dresses resembling those in the Liberation photos but with tattoos blending into the flowers of their dresses. In 1944, it was D-Day on the shores of Normandy, but Chartres was occupied until mid-August, with the first American soldiers arriving in Proust’s beloved Illiers-Combray at 1 p.m. on August 15 and in Chartres at 10:30 a.m. on August 16th, my birthday. The people here love Americans; even young people repeat the stories their grandparents recounted of the American tanks driving up our street of St. Pierre a few days later and the 85-year-old butcher hugs me every time he sees me, as if I had been there and helped. The first time I came here, it was as if I’d found my home so far away from home, where I could wear pink and blue floral dresses like my grandmothers’ and wear white socks and sandals and dance in the same streets Jean Moulin had walked and feel free.
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