My Aunt: A Story by Doris Yim Cheung

I just received my Aunt Qi Xiang’s letter. She told us about her life recently and about how she would complete her accounting course the next month. We all congratulated her. My Aunt Qi Xiang is 56 years old now. She has one son, a 26-year-old businessman and a daughter who is 23 years old and is studying in university. My aunt has worked as an accounts clerk in a grain store in a city of Guangdong in Mainland since she married a city man.

When I was a young girl my mother always told me about Aunt Qi Xiang’s life and character. My mother also appreciated her. I love my aunt very much. I remembered that once my mother told me that my aunt had a frightening experience.

One day, my aunt was riding a bicycle with a big heavy sack of rice tied to back of the bicycle. When she was crossing a bridge, she lost control of the bike and fell off the bridge into a deep, rapidly flowing river. Although she landed on rocks in the river, she did not quit. She swam to the river bank using all of her effort. Fortunately she was saved. However, her nose was no longer straight and pointed. She now has a snub nose with a half-inch scar on the right side. She always says, ” I have lost my only pride.”My aunt is kind and thoughtful. She once asked for a week’s leave to take care of my mother while my mother was recovering from minor surgery. She likes helping people too, so she always carries sacks of rice for clients.

One afternoon during a hot summer, my mother said she hoped Aunt Qi Xiang could be in Hong Kong as she was good at making ice bars especially milk bars and bars with red beans. When I heard that, I hoped to visit my aunt since I wanted to taste the ice bars.

One summer vacation—I was eight that year—my mother brought me to my aunt’s home. When the door opened, a 1.6-metre-tall thin woman appeared in front of me. She had a darker skin colour than us and her square face had some freckles on it. Her eyes were small but bright, and her lips were thick. Although she had a plain face, she gave people a kind feeling. She gave us a warm embrace and said in a low heavy tone,”Come in!” My first impression of my aunt was that she was smart and kind.

My aunt is kind to others but strict to her children. She did not allow them to come late for dinner. She also wanted them to concentrate on their studies and to behave well. However my elder cousin always let her down. One day that summer, it was time for dinner and my cousin had not come back yet. My aunt did not say a word and her face turned red gradually. We knew that my cousin would not have dared to come home when he made mistakes outside or fought with his peers. That night, we all ate our dinner in silence.When the clock struck twelve, my cousin came back with dirt and wounds on face. His clothes were dirty and torn, My aunt asked,” Where have you been.”

“In the street.” My cousin answered in a very low tone.

“What about your face?” My aunt asked.

“By my peers.” My cousin replied.

My aunt couldn’t help her anger. She dashed into the kitchen quickly and picked up a knife. She shouted at my cousin,”I’ll chop off your ears. They are no longer useful. You won’t listen to anything I tell you.” She came out of the kitchen, moved towards my cousin and raised the knife. My mother ran to her and held her hand tightly to prevent a tragedy. My cousin was frightened and ran out of the house as fast as an arrow. My cousin has behaved a little better than before since that horrible night.

That was the first time I knew my aunt could be violent. She did not regret her actions. She believed corporal punishment was unavoidable and a useful way to teach children. Her belief may be correct because my cousin has graduated from university and has a good job. He always thanks his mother’s teaching.

My aunt can live leisurely now as her children have grown up. But she is still hardworking. She is aware of that she lacks knowledge. So she attended a training programme provided by her store. Now she only has few lessons left. I wish she will have a good result.

~Doris Yim Cheung (Hong Kong)

 

Return to Bloodlines: Poems and Stories about Family by Young Asian Writers (Asian Voices)

 

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