Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The wonder of photo albums

Here on Veteran's Day it is especially appropriate to mention the attraction of old photo albums, even as we have only begun the process of reviewing the many that we have.  The Veteran's Day reference relates to an album that I found in Virginia, and now have here, after my father died.  In it, there was a photo of a shot-up plane, wheels gone, flat down on some desolate looking plain.  What is this I wondered?  At my father's memorial service one of his hometown friends from Bedford showed up, and discussed just tangentially the time that Joe(that's my father) got shot down in China.  I had never known that, although the evidence was now right in front of me.  When I gave my parents leather bound notebooks in the early 2000's and asked them to write about their lives, my mother was already beset with very early Alzheimer's and wrote little, while my father wrote extensively about his early life and later travels.  He left out completely 1939 to 1945, his war experience, their marriage, and all of their travels after he became a pilot trainer stateside.

My father was a pilot in the Flying Tigers after they became officially part of the Army Air Force, not before when they were part of the OSS, an even more secretive predecessor to the CIA.  He was based in Kunming, and he did speak to me of great memories there as he went hunting for geese with his mates and local helpers.  He was a country boy and had hunted all of his life.  Apparently, in a mission like many others fought against the Japanese, his plane was hit, and in those days before much professional equipment the plane rose to altitudes above normal to escape the ground fire.  His sinuses were temporarily destroyed but his life was saved.  They crash landed successfully on the belly of the plane.  I wonder, did he have his darn box camera with him in the plane, is that how casual the mission was meant to be, or did they dive close enough to the base for him to walk back out with his camera.  I will never know, as all of this is learned after his passing, thanks to a photo album and a distant friend.

Photo albums are now being looked at that depict the years of my children's birth and maturation until age 16 or so.  Other than the very early childhood period, they relate to all of our travel.  In fact some relate to travel in the six years before K and I were married and we traveled together to France and Portugal regularly.  In general, the shots including K show as a robustly healthy, exuberant, and upbeat person, not quite like today.  The many photos just mirror some of which are on the walls of the extensively covered basement rooms that we see always, but on this viewing in the books they show so much more.  There are some of my parents, especially ones of my mother and each daughter in Hillsborough and New Orleans respectively, that deserve reprinting and framing.  The expressions in the photos are priceless, showing without a doubt when the photographer, me, was being magnetic or annoying, or some instances of other relative's in-law disdain, just not liked very much.  So obvious now.  We still have many albums left to peruse as this photo book viewing just started two nights ago.  It is not, surprisingly to me, a dreary nostalgic look, but one of real discovery about my children, wife, and myself, a truly worthwhile endeavor, no kidding.

To be continued...

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