Jun 11, 2014

For My Brother

I wasn't planning to, but I saw your Facebook post and a thought just took me aback (perfect timing: 10.50pm, untouched creative writing assignment due tomorrow) so here goes.

The day of my 21st birthday this year, hours before I left for this North America trip, my brother appeared behind me at the rooftop garden at Vivo with a huge plastic bag. It was the first time he had gotten me something for my birthday - last year he learnt to cook so that he could make me spaghetti for lunch, which was extremely sweet too.

So my brother's 17 this year. Fresh-faced, starry-eyed, jumping into the heat of junior college and all that jazz (or rock, rather). I'm reminded of another experience I had of a pseudo-brother entering JC - Ruowei and his whole exciting process of discovery, the wide-eyedness and his braces, his enthusiasm when talking about Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club) and Dan Brown, me the older sister bursting with pride when he did that crazy erhu solo. I just can't grasp the fact that Ruowei's in the army now, done with the A's. And soon Haoyang will be too. All of them growing up, and I'm like, where did the time go?

My brother is the lead singer of Raffles Rock, damn, and I have yet to watch him perform, despite the fact that he's busked on Orchard Road, held a rock concert, and done a couple of other things around. High-flying, having so much fun, but still absolutely genuine and humble, still goofy and witty. While his world is changing he remains the same fun-seeking lad who doesn't take school very seriously (which I think is a very good thing).

On the MBTI test, I'm an INFP, and all the categories are near 50-50 except my Feeling portion - when I took the test, only one question was answered towards the Thinking side. One day my brother told me that he was an ENFP, and everything was pretty much 50-50 except for the Feeling portion too, where none of his answers were towards the Thinking side. When he said that, I was reminded of the night before his exam, where I opened his room door and found papers strewn all over the bed, a computer before him and a guitar in his hand. And I was just like, #storyofmylife.

Something I've seen in my brother for a couple of years, and that I really admire about him, is that once he takes an interest to something, he sticks to it with passionate dedication until he gets really good at it. It started with him playing the intro to Hey There Delilah over and over again one night, when he was 14, maybe? I was like, "you can read guitar scores?" and he said no. But every single night after that, before he slept, he would spend hours practicing. In two years he could do Sungha Jung songs and the like. And then there was artistic gymnastics - one day he came home wide-eyed and said that he had tried a trampoline and it was really fun. And then he became super passionate about it, and soon he was able to do backflips, then double twists from the trampoline to the floor, then double twists across the mat. It was very impressive, and amazing to witness the process in seven-second videos. Now, whenever we go to an iconic place, he takes a photo of himself doing a backflip there.

Annapurna Base Camp, 4170m, -7 degrees C, a ground of rocks. He takes off his jacket and shoes; backflips until I get a good shot.
When I left for Yale, he apparently started taking an interest to cooking. When I came back three weeks later, he was already getting curry chicken recipes from my grandma. And so I have missed this phase of my brother's life. Apparently he makes pasta with friggin' peanut butter. Now when I go home for meals, he's occasionally the one refrying the refrigerated leftovers instead of my mum.

Anyway, what inspired me to write this post was the realisation that he was freaking seventeen. I mean, of course I know he's seventeen, but I had never related it to my own seventeen-year-old self. What was I like when I was seventeen? Diving into all the leadership positions I could get, because I had resolved to stop being the girl sitting alone in the canteen wishing she was friends with people, and to get into the heart of action and friendships. Just crawled out of the well after a relationship that had lasted almost two years, and was beginning to fall again, hard. Just begun to be allowed to go for church and cell group meetings regularly, and was beginning to develop my walk with God again, questioning and going deeper, after I had fallen deeply in love with Him in Sec 4 but ran far away in anger when I broke up. I was also learning the ways and intricacies of words: I had only found my love for creative writing a few months before. When I was seventeen, my brother was thirteen, and he said this:
"My teacher told me, Mark you have an outstanding piece of work. And then I was like, wow, outstanding? And it turns out she meant I haven't handed it in."
JC1 seems like only a moment ago to me, and my brother's there now. It's insane. I still remember how he walked across my desk when I was trying to study when I was 10 and he was 6 or something, and I shouted so loudly it echoed across the neighbourhood. And the time I stopped hating him when I was in a bad mood one day and he offered to let me take the front seat of the car - and I realised he actually had a heart, damn! I remember how he wrote his name as "Marky" in kindergarten, and my mum stopped calling him that forever. I remember when I was Sec 1 and I went back to visit my primary school and my ex Chinese teacher who was now teaching him was like, "he got 4/20 for his compo, okay?!?! Can you at least let him copy your work so that my brain doesn't hurt so much?!"

Back then his handwriting was illegible. And in his recent, very very sweet birthday card to me, I couldn't believe his handwriting had become so neat, almost girly. ("yes, I had to write it very slowly.") 

This boy has grown up a lot, and I regret not having witnessed much of it. We didn't talk much when I was in secondary school, and when we started to click more I was rarely home anyway, and then I left altogether for school. 

Here's to the ichiban boshi dinners with that awesome salmon sashimi, here's to teaching me the guitar, to The Big Bang Theory and HIMYM, all the movies you watch every night, to Memento, to all the musicals, especially Lion King and Notre Dame, to singing along to Jersey Boys and Grease tracks, and to all the cirque du soleil. Here's to random afternoon just-got-home couch conversations, and also the one religious philsophy discussion we had over yet another ichiban boshi dinner which you probably don't remember. Here's to the letters I used to write mum and dad about how much I hated you, and also how I once threatened to kill you with scissors if you didn't help me get the remote or something, and our wrestling fights. You're seventeen, damn, and I wish I could be around to witness your growth more. You're welcome to hang out at my dorm when you're not busy being swarmed by fangirls. I will find Old Spice for you. 


Anonymous said...

I thought this was a really, really sweet post. Very reflective and well-written, without being overly cheesy or mushy, yet sentimental. :D

Hannah Karen Ho said...

Aww thank you! It...wasn't written with the intent of being artistic; it was just a train-of-thought-style reflection. But that's lovely to hear, thanks so much :)