Family photo album stirs up public emotions

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Zhao Mengmeng of Beijing in family photos with her father when she was 1 and 30 years old. [Photo/China Daily]

Zhao Mengmeng of Beijing in family photos with her father when she was 1 and 30 years old. [Photo/China Daily]

A daughter has set off an outpouring of emotion among netizens after posting a private gift to her dad online.

On Father's Day, June 17, Zhao Mengmeng, a 31-year-old editor in Beijing, gave her dad a digitized collection of old family photos of the two of them taken over the past 30 years - two permanent protagonists in different settings.

"It's a family tradition to take a picture every year around my birthday," said Zhao. "I also write down the captions for each picture and the story behind the lens."

However, she said she was "shocked and overwhelmed" by the public response to the collection after she posted it on Sina Weibo, one of China's largest micro-blogging platform.

Zhao posted the photo album in June, and as of Thursday, her personal post had been forwarded 34,700 times, including by actors and TV presenters. She has received more than 11,580 replies and blessings from friends, acquaintances and strangers.

But the photos really came to the attention of the public on Tuesday when it was forwarded by Shanghai Morning Post. The newspaper's post was then forwarded 178,740 times and received 26,800 comments in less than two days.

"I was very excited about the precious gift my daughter sent to me, as well as the blessings from strangers," said Zhao's father, a 63-year-old retiree who wished to remain anonymous.

"I didn't sleep the night I heard about it. I have now memorized some of the comments on the collection of pictures."

The photos have moved people to tears and prompted many netizens to express their regret that they do not spend enough time with their parents.

"It's a pity that I keep the memories of my parents only in my mind rather than with photos," said Zhang Zhongkai, a student at Renmin University of China.

"Only since living away from my parents have I realized the preciousness of kinship."

Zhang now takes a photo of himself with his parents in Shandong province at the end of the university vacation, before returning to Beijing to study.

"Sometimes when I feel nostalgic I just browse the old photos," he said.

In response to the public reaction, Zhao said that she felt blessed to have such a close relationship with her parents and have so many happy family memories captured in the photos.

"I'm delighted that the collection of photos can remind the public that time is fleeting and thus it is important to cherish time with family," she said.

"Sometimes people are too busy and take the love and care from their parents for granted."

Zhao's mother, who took the photos of Zhao and her father over the past 30 years, said she started snapping photographs simply because her daughter was "too fine a creature" at birth.

"I don't regret that I'm not included in the collection, as we have many pictures of the three of us," she said.

Zhao said due to work commitments she was unable snap a photo with her dad on her birthday this year, but she promised not to miss her 32nd birthday.

Zhao said she and her husband, who have been married for less than two years, have no immediate plans to have a child, but added: "One thing is for certain, they'll be in a picture with me every year."

Dad: Don't take kinship for granted

It was six years ago that I first realized my father was getting old.

His hair used to be black and shiny thanks to hair treatments. But he stopped dying his hair six years ago, and overnight my dearest dad turned into an old man with gray hair.

Dad has slowly but steadily put on weight since retirement. And wrinkles are forming on his face. His sharp look has also been replaced by an amiable and placid expression. I'm not sure when that happened.

He's becoming satisfied more easily as he ages and content with the small and trivial things I do for him, like picking out a collection of photos. For him, I guess, the best gift is nothing but companionship.

So, six years ago, I realized the shift in responsibility between Dad and me.

It's a joyous journey sorting through memories. Leafing through photos, I suddenly find myself feeling very blessed that I'm living in the same city as my parents and can visit them on weekends.

I'll keep taking a photo with Dad each year and I bet I'll pass on the tradition to my child.

It's a delightful thing that many friends are reminded of the precious and unconditional love from our parents through the photos of Dad and me. In this fast-paced society, people sometimes take kinship for granted.

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