A picture of double takes

P Chang
3 min readJan 16


My father's shot of my daughter could have been me a generation earlier.

Last evening I stumbled upon this old fuji film photo. It instantly fell into my all-time favorite images bucket.

This is probably the earliest trace of what led to where my daughter is standing now — a creative director who is responsible for developing a publisher-backed millions dollar invested commercial indie game.

She was holding something with both hands and studying it attentively in this photo. She looked like she was checking her iPhone or playing games on a Nintendo switch.

But that was an era long before even the smartphone was born. I was interning at one agency of the Canadian federal government. Her dad was seven hundred miles from where this photo was taken, busy getting their passports approval to bring her to meet me.

My dad, the photographer of this picture, has long gone to heaven. So I cannot know what was in her hand at that moment.

But it was most likely a toy, a new toy he bought at the entry of this park, just like he did for me when I was a young kid. There were always some handmade toys for kids sold by crafty farmers at the entry of these city public parks back then. It is not a book, and she likely was using her right-hand thumb to play it.

It must be a good toy, so she was so concentrated that my dad could take a good shot of her.

Looking at this picture, I envisioned there should be an identical photo with time dialed further back two more decades. Then it would be me standing there, with the same bob hair, big round head, and identical standing posture, studying perhaps an exact new toy.

My mom primarily raised me for the first ten years as my dad was sent to a rural factory and lived and worked separately due to political reasons. He took the chance to help me raise my daughter for the first three years to pay back the dues he owed and the joys he missed. The fact my daughter and I looked almost identical when we were toddlers also helped that enriching time of my dad's.

I couldn't be more familiar with the surroundings of this picture. It is a park that is just less than half a mile away from where our apartment was. A small gate linked this park and my mom's university campus. My mom's apartment stood less than two hundred yards away from that gate.

Whenever my dad returned to the city to visit us, this park was naturally the default choice. It always brought happiness and joy to me, my parents, and my brother whenever we hung out there.

This park later became my and my besties' go-to place whenever our elementary school nearby was set on recess mode, and all the kids were set free, which was happening more than often, and we all loved it. We loved to run up and down the ancient temple floors. I enjoyed sitting on the hundreds of years old wooden bench of the temple's second-floor terrace that overlooked the Jingjiang river, sticking my two tiny legs out hanging in the air, and pretending I was on a big ship sailing towards the unknown la la land.

Now they painted this terrace with shining paint, and it lost the appeal of a place that has been at least five hundred years old.

This was perhaps why my dad always frequently brought my daughter, her nanny, and my mom to this park, even though by then, they lived a few miles away, and it would take them two bus route transfers to get there.

It was a place that held our family's secret sanctuaries, especially mine.