Memoir Monday: Baby Brother


A chubby-cheeked two year old boy stands barefoot in the center of the photo with a marbled blue backdrop hanging behind him and covering the ground, and brightly colored toys and plushies scattered around his feet. He has large, dark brown eyes and black hair that is just long enough to cover his ears. He dons a red and white striped T-shirt with “USA” stitched on the front in baby blue lettering and a pair of black cotton shorts. He holds a black and white stuffed skunk in his hands as he stumbles towards the camera on a pair of unsteady toddler feet. He wears an expression of innocent wonder and curiosity: eyebrows raised, eyes wide, mouth half-open as he stammers out a garbled string of words. Only four front teeth—two on the top and two on the bottom—are visible.

The photo depicts a moment in time from a little less than six years ago, on the morning of my younger brother’s birthday. That year, he finally began to form semi-coherent sentences, albeit very slowly and with a lisp due to having only front teeth. Before then, our parents were always worrying about his speech; while the other children in his daycare continuously improved their speaking skills, my brother’s vocabulary was limited to “mama,” “papa,” and “jie jie”—Mandarin for “big sister”—for a long time. In celebration of his growth, our parents hired a professional photographer to take a family photoshoot. Unfortunately, when it came to my brother’s turn for solo shots, he, being barely two years old, would not stay still and constantly tried to grab the camera, which was nothing but an odd metal contraption to him.

Despite his immense growth, somehow, even now all that I can see whenever I look at my brother is the little boy in the photo from six years ago.

— Helen Yang (10)

“Camera, Max. This is a camera. It keeps memories for us,” my mother explained. He did not understand what memories were, and continued to reach for the camera. So, in order to keep him occupied long enough to capture a few photos, my mother decided to let him play with his toys while the photographer took pictures.

When I found this photo, I was reminded of how in the past few years, my brother grew from the baby in the picture into who he is now. He is no longer a baby, but instead a third grader in elementary school who has already grown several adult teeth, speaks without a stutter and walks steadily.And I think that decades later, when we are both adults, I will still remember the child he once was—a boy who was young, new to the world and fascinated by everything.