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(Host) Every so often we come face to face with our former selves in a way that inspires reflection. That happened recently to commentator David Moats.

(Moats) I did an excavation the other day inside a closet. I found boxes and boxes of old stuff, and inside a box I found an old picture of myself. There I am staring into a camera on a mountainside in Idaho. My brother-in-law was holding the camera. I’m squinting into the sun. There’s an alpine lake down over my shoulder. I’d forgotten about that picture.

I have another one from the same trip showing me and my father standing next to each other at the camp site down by that alpine lake. That was a long time ago. It must have been 1984 because I remember my son was 4 years old at the time.

These pictures caught my attention because of another picture taken just this summer. There I am up on a mountain in California, my daughter on my right, my younger son on my left, a beautiful blue lake behind us.

One thing I remembered about that trip in 1984 was that my father was so happy. You can see it in his smile. He was not an especially spiritual or verbal person, but I think he took a deeply felt satisfaction in spending a few days in the mountains, near where he grew up, with a couple of his sons and grandsons. There was a peacefulness about him on that trip.

And now I have this latest photo. The reddish beard from 1984 is gray. The reddish hair is full of what I call silver highlights. I am the father with my kids in the mountains.

I am not the 36-year-old from those first two photos. I am the old guy with two grown-up children by his side. There’s a big distance between that mountain in Idaho and that mountain in California.

Standing with my father 19 years ago, there was something in me that wanted to say, “Look at me, I’m doing OK, I’ve got three great kids and I’m making my way in the world.”

Nineteen years later, I’m saying something different. It’s not, “Look at me. It’s, “Look at these great kids.” It’s not, “I’m making my way in the world.” It’s: “Whatever I’ve done is OK, but the story now is about these kids.”

Maybe that’s a clue to the meaning of the smile on my father’s face in that 19-year-old picture.

He had retired just the year before. Life was getting simpler. And for that moment it was about the essentials. He was in the mountains with his kids and grandkids. I don’t have any grandkids yet, and I’m not retired. But on that mountainside this summer I was smiling. Like my father.

This is David Moats from Middlebury.

David Moats in the editorial page editor for the Rutland Herald and winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. He spoke from our studio in Norwich.

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