As is the usual practice, the annual reunion dinner that’s attended by the various branches and sub-branches of my late father’s three families ends with an hongbao distribution binge, from the elders to the youngsters; from some youngsters to the elders and from some elders to the singleton in the family: moi.
This ritual is de rigeuer even though some of the families might meet up later to exchange further Chinese New Year wishes.
It was no different for the reunion dinner just past: except this time I discovered two mix ups.
First were the 20 red packets I had put together for the vaious unmarried grandchildren and great grand children. I’ve been doing this on my mother’s behalf for the past several years, starting from when her cognitive problems made it difficult for her to handle non-daily matters.
Although there were only 19 unmarried grandchildren and great children who would be present at the reunion, I thought the extra hongbao might come in handy, should an eligible but unexpected family member show up.
I was proven right. A distant aunt turned up and she has a grandson. The extra packet went to him.
Yet after the distribution, I found I still had one spare hongbao in hand.
How could that be?
I wished I had been as meticulous as my sister, D, carefully stapling together sets of hongbaos meant for the various families’ qualifying offspring.
I checked around and everyone who was supposed to receive a hongbao from my mum via my hands claimed that he or she had been given one.
In order not to go home with the extra, I found a nephew’s spouse who also turned up at the reunion dinner unexpectedly (they had been living in Qatar) and gave it to her.
“You don’t actually qualify, ah,” I joked.
Some other relative sitting nearby said: “Never mind, for the baby to come.” Much to the amusement of all who overheard as the couple had been married a few years and still childless.
If I thought I had done with hongbao mix ups, I was wrong. Yesterday, after all the planned visitors who dropped by to wish my mum long life and happy new year had left, I found — to my horror — at the bottom of my handbag a hongbao with two $100 bills.
And written on the hongbao?
Oh my goodness. That’s surely meant for Breadline, which I had written about here. So, have to send an extra cheque to the charity.
Clearly, I’m not cut out to be the custodian of other people’s money :$