Among my parents' photo albums, I found black and whites of my mother, my older brother, and my 18-months younger brother. We stood on Florida beaches looking up at rocket launches through metal chain link. Okay, so these memories came from a photo album, but if they were only photos in a book, why even today when I see them do I smell the crisp salt air and taste the aluminum of the fence? In one album is a photo of a kindergarten-age me sitting proudly on my bike the first day I learned to ride it. But if this is just a black and white photo, why do I know the bike was red? And when I see the photo of my brothers and me belted into the seats of a Boeing 707 airliner, my mother smiling in the aisle, standing with my baby sister in her arms, why do I distinctly smell a mixture of JP4 jet fuel and barf bag? Many of these early photographs seem to share themes I’ve found woven into my life ever since: space and rockets, the Air Force, parents and family, the kindness of strangers, small miracles, inner nightmares, beaches, vineyards, and castles. My guess is that while we’re in the moment, we can’t tell what’s part of a thread or what’s simple lint, even after years of practice. But after a lifetime of retrospect, validated by photos and what memories remain, some threads do become obvious. Unfortunately, most of us will never see the tapestry we create. That image is a gift we leave to others.
The Threads that Bind
J. Michael Dumoulin, author