A Treasure Of The Family

Charlie is our second son. He is very different from his brother, Kang. Perhaps Kang is the first child, so he has always been a leader and at the center of the crowds. On the contrary, Charlie is invisible, and prefers to be the second, just like he is the second child in our family. From time to time I need to remind Kang to slow down but to urge Charlie to speed up. Interestingly, Charlie’s slow and laid- back personality has made him very popular. When he was a little boy, he was the hero of the girls in grade school. When he is a grown- up, he has lots of buddies from different races, sex and ages. His Japanese host family even looked after him as their son when he lived with them.

Charlie has been quite a character ever since he was a baby. It seems that he has never been a baby because he never acted like a baby. He even showed no interest in learning how to speak. As his mother, I used to worry a lot that he might not be able to talk. He seldom cried or threw a temper tantrum, but he was very energetic and playful. He never cared whether he might hurt himself, so there were always bumps or cuts here and there on his little body. He loved sports. He would try any sport, no matter he could manage it or not. The first time he rode a bike, he just hopped on and off he went without any help. The problem was that he couldn’t get off. Oops, he crashed into the wall! He enjoyed heights, the higher the better. Anytime when he spotted a pole, no matter if it was just a flagstaff, off he climbed, and in a minute he was hanging high on the pole leaving us yelping at him underneath. Believe or not, he was just three or four years old at that time.

When he was a little boy he was taller than the average. Every time when the guests visited, they always complimented his height and asked which grade he was in. It was an annoying question to him because he was not even qualified to attend a kindergarten yet. Charlie was very curious about everything he saw and he enjoyed exploring the world around him. When he was a toddler, he loved to throw his toys into the toilet and watched what would happen. He once tried to dive in the tub and also to hatch an egg by keeping a lamp under the blanket. His creative mind drove us crazy. For example, one day I was about to drink a cup of juice which was left on the table, but I smelled something wrong. Yuck, it was diluted urine. There was no need to guess who did that. When I scooped him up and was about to give him a good spank on the bottom, he just looked at me with an innocent smile. My hands dropped.

When he was in grade one, the whole family went to Tai Tung, a beach town, for a vacation. When we passed by a pineapple plantation, he saw some gliders gracefully soaring in the sky. He begged to get on, but he didn’t know he was too young to ride. We tried to explain to him in no avail. Finally, we pointed at the sharp spiky pineapple leaves which looked like hundreds of thousands of knives pointing at the sky and told him it would be where he landed. This episode faded in our memory. However, many years later when he served in the military, he volunteered to be a parachutist. His boldness scared us, but he argued: “You agreed to let me fly in the sky, and now I am a grown-up.”

Charlie is a moral person. In his mind people are not supposed to smoke, drink or gamble. One of our good friends who was like a godfather to Charlie and he happened to be a smoker and a drinker. One day Charlie told him that he seriously wanted to become a mayor one day and he would put all those people who smoke, drink and gamble in jail. Without any hesitation, our friend pointed at Charlie’s young face and laughed: “I guarantee you will never be a mayor who carries this weird thought.”

Most of the time Charlie is absent-minded, but actually he has a keen observation. One day when he was three, I noticed him hiding under the dinning table sobbing. Since he was a happy child who seldom shed tears. I asked him what happened. He sniffed: “Why do the kittens outside our home have no mother? What could they eat?” There was another time I took him to attend a wedding. He asked me seriously why the wedding was so chaotic and noisy. He felt very sorry for the well-dressed bride because he noticed that no one paid attention to her. Instead, they were just busy drinking and chatting. At that time, he was just 12, but he told me that one day his wedding would be very romantic and serene.

Charlie is also a loving and caring person. There was an incident occurred during a rehearsal for his middle school commencement. His classmates teased him by stepping on his brand new sneakers and the mischievous behavior irritated a PE teacher who was supervising them. Without finding out the truth, he whipped with a long stick heavily on Charlie’s arm and badly injured him. Even though the Principal and the teacher apologized after they realized they made a terrible mistake, Shyi Dong and I were very angry. But Charlie just told us softly: “I already forgave that teacher because I felt sorry for him. What I got was just a wound which will heal soon, but the wrongdoings the teacher made will punish his conscience. Besides, none of the students will respect him anymore. “ We don’t know whether this teacher ever felt guilty, but we are proud of Charlie for his kind forgiviness.

Charlie is almost like a clone of Shyi Dong, so he is always very sweet to his father. Anytime when Shyi Dong needs help, Charlie is always there. One summer he helped Shyi Dong working in a weeds-covered garden. He was burned with the scorching sun and was bitten up by the mosquitoes when I went to check on them. I asked Charlie: “Are you all right?” He didn’t even look up at me but answered: “I’d rather die.” He tried his best to show his love to his father. This is Charlie.

The stories about Charlie can go on and on. He is a precious gift to us, so he got a nickname, Chia Bao. It means a treasure of the family. When he was in college, he told us that we shouldn’t call him Chia Bao any more because it was too childish. However, we couldn’t find any name to replace it. When he served in the military, Shyi Dong and I went to visit him. In the distance we saw soldiers walking in file behind him. Seeing the four shiny stars glitter on each side of his shoulders, we knew our Chia Bao had grown up.

Now Charlie is studying in the bio-engineering field. He has a big dream to establish an enterprise which can help the world with better medical treatments. I remember that when he was 7 he already showed his business mind. One day he asked me why he couldn’t sell his photos as postcards. We laughed at him for this silly thought, but now I know his interest in business never faded because he is heading for his dream at Berkeley.

On December 15, it will be his birthday. We don’t know how we can celebrate it for him when we are separated by the Pacific Ocean. I wrote down those stories as a special birthday gift for him. I want to tell him, “You are a treasure of our family. We love you, Chia Bao!”

Bih-Hua Chen
November 18, 2010