My grandmama used to set tasks for each of her xun, grandchildren, when we were growing up to test and gauge our character and personalities. They wouldn’t be obvious, they were subtle things like who remembered to take the wheelie bin out on garbage day, who could iron the crispest shirt or which one of us didn’t just wash the dishes but cleaned the sink afterwards too.
The biggest of these invisible examinations was when we’d get off the bus from a day of shopping in Chinatown or Chermside. Mama would delegate the two heaviest bags to whichever grandchild was with her that day.
My brother Kenny passed with first class honours by not displaying a single sign of petulance.
Most of us - my older cousin Fayette, my younger cousin Ivan and myself - would fidget and struggle a few shuffles into the short walk home. If it’s too heavy, just leave the bags on the sidewalk, my mama would say. Unbeknownst to us she was quietly prodding for a reaction. No way!, we’d respond then tighten our grip, tense our biceps, march on ahead and lead the way back home.
My sister Veronica was the only one of the Fung clan to stray completely off the path. When mama suggested If it’s too heavy, just leave the bags on the sidewalk, my sister responded Ok!, dropped the bags and walked off without even the slightest of shoulder checks behind her. We still don’t know if this was a cunning act of calling my grandma’s bluff or if the depth of my sister’s character as a young child was actually that shallow…
Our youngest cousin Caleb was never included in any of these tests because his Cantonese is too crap and he wouldn’t have understood anyway.