My beautiful boy. My number three. My Marine. My Christian is home for the summer. I don’t think there’s a mom on the planet who doesn’t burst with happiness when her kids come home for the summer. As they get older, graduate, get jobs, have their own families, it becomes even more rare. Even more of celebration.
Christian spent four years in the Marines. He spent a big chunk of that time overseas, in the usual scary places. Having Christian come home, having Christian be able to come home, is the best elixir anyone can give me. He’s been home for almost two weeks. His deep voice echo’ing through the house feeling normal already, comforting. I love nothing more than doing my 2 a.m. bathroom run and hearing Chris & Tess laughing uproariously at their nightly sibling movie marathons. It is good to have him home.
We spent the first week just relaxing, going to Comic Con (The Cosplay Era) and celebrating the 4th of July (Independence Day). Christian had a little relaxing to do. A little decompressing from school. A little recovering from jet lag. A lot of bonding with Dane & Tess & me & Dave. Slowly we started talking about doing things. And stuff. Mostly he nope’d me. And then..
“I’d like to go to Belleau Wood. I’d like to drink from the Devil Dog fountain.”
I had no idea what he was talking about, but my beautiful boy had a request and I was going to move heaven & earth to make it happen. It turns out Belleau Wood is only 5 hour or so from our house. This I could do easily. We waited till the weekend, so Dave could go too, packed up the car and headed south.
Before we left I asked Christian, and googled a little, why he wanted to drink from a fountain. Chris is a man of few words:
“Because. It’s what Marines do.” Sigh. Googling helped a little more. The Devil Dog fountain is a bit of a mecca for Marines. A pilgrimage most try to make at least once in their lifetime. We Are the Mighty have a good little telling of the tale.
On Saturday we left a little later than planned, and after five hours in the car we left the A4 and embarked on the tiny back roads surrounding Belleau Wood, France. We drove past fields filled with crops and cows. Old farms dotted the landscape and quaint villages seemed to have not aged in 100 years. I felt transported back in time. I could feel Christian sitting behind me, feeling the same. Imagining his brothers 100 years ago, marching through these same villages, these same woods. Some never leaving, never coming home.
We finally turned the bend on one particularly picturesque road, and the GPS said we had arrived. In reality we were at the fork of 3 roads, a triangle of wild greenery in the middle, an old abandoned, gated, barbed wired farmhouse to our right. I pulled into the triangle, the last parking space on a country road cluttered with cars. People were unloading, walking to another busy building across the street. Parents pushing strollers, older couples walking hand-in-hand. My heart warmed. So many people to pay respect to this tiny fountain, this small memorial, in the middle of nowhere France.
We got out, stretched, and headed to the gathering, sure we were at the right place. And in a way we were. It was the site of the Belleau Wood museum. Currently closed. No sign of a bulldog fountain. We decided to cross the street, to the old abandoned farmhouse that the GPS insisted was the bulldog fountain. At first glance, the GPS was wrong. But we are nothing if not determined. We peered through the gates, and found the famed fountain perched at the back of the property. With the gate locked, spikes poking out, and barbed wire around the side, we decided to try the local villagers.
I asked for help getting in, my terrible school girl French making it difficult, and we were met with lots of no’s. It was closed. There was nothing anyone could do. With sad faces the locals turned away from us, closed the gates to the museum courtyard and celebrated their celebration in peace. There was no one but us there for the tiny bulldog fountain.
Stymied we stood there. Unwilling to give up until Christian completed his pilgrimage. I tried google. One helpful soul suggest hunting down the key master, one David A****, perhaps living at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery nearby. Instead we decided to try trekking around the farmhouse, searching for a way in.
The farmhouse turned out to be quite spectacular from the back, but still impenetrable. Covered in burs & bugs, we made our way back to the front. I was looking at my feet, trying to avoid stepping in a gopher hole and rebreaking my leg, when I noticed Christian & Dave had disappeared.
They’d found a weak spot. Out of sight from the feasting villagers, buried in the weeds and stinging nettles, the barbwire had a hole. Not a big hole, but a hole big enough for a man to slip through. Carefully. And slip through they did. And drink from the fountain he did. Christian completed his mission. He will now live forever.