When Andy stayed with my family the Christmas before we got married, he was shocked by how late my Baby Sister came home. She was my last sibling in high school. Her boyfriend dropped her off about 1:31 AM. We, of course, were still awake, thanks to the three-hour time difference between LA and New Hampshire. Andy strained chicken stock while I frosted cream cheese sugar cookies. Baby Sister told us good-night and helped herself to a cookie on the way upstairs.
After she went up to bed, Andy said, “Isn’t it kind of late?”
“Nah. My curfew was 1:30 when I was a senior, too.”
Andy looked at the clock and said, “She cut it kind of close. If I wasn’t home by ten minutes before curfew, my parents would start calling all my friends’ homes looking for me.”
“What time was your curfew?”
Andy muttered something.
“What was that? I can’t hear you.”
Andy sighed. “Midnight.”
“In high school? Wow, that sucks. What about college?”
“Still midnight. It was always midnight.”
“Holy shit. Even in grad school? You lived with your parents until you were 25 and you still had a midnight curfew?!”
“Well, you said you had one, too!”
“Yeah, in HIGH SCHOOL,” I scoffed. “Not when we came home from college. Hell, when Judgmental Genius Doctor Sister brought home a boyfriend her freshman year, Dad didn’t care how late they stayed out or if they slept in the same room. He was all, ‘she’s an adult now and I have no control over her at school, it’s silly and pointless to enforce rules at home.’”
“Your dad is very practical.”
“Well, up to a point. He wouldn’t let any of us take the big van on dates.”
“Really? My parents let me take their white van everywhere.”
“Yes, because it broke down all the time, it made you look like a either a florist or a rapist, and you had to be home at 11:45 PM. Not a lot of danger there, babe.”
Andy made a sad, pouty face. “That was harsh.”
“You know it’s true!” I laughed and hugged him. “Your parents are crazy, babe, but I can’t complain too much. They kept you safe and out of the clutches of other, awful women until I found you.”
Andy licked the frosting off my fingers and agreed.
Eleven months later, after an evening at a long and less-than edible Chinese Wedding Banquet in Hawaii, Andy took me out to get a burger. He followed that up with a trip to Leonard’s Bakery. I devoured my haupia malasadas. Then I devoured Andy’s (only fair since he ate my dinner).
Andy started the car and asked, “Ready head back to my parents’?”
I shuddered. “No.”
For once, we weren’t driving Andy’s parents around. Sunny and Jay had chauffeured several relatives to the banquet in their new sedan. They gave Andy the old white van to drive. After four days of hovering in-laws, it was nice to be alone. Even if our only background music was clanking and rattling. (The van’s ancient radio no longer worked.)
“The van’s big enough,” I said. “Let’s just sleep in this parking lot.”
“What about a scenic drive up the mountain?”
I gave the van a dubious look. “Can we make it?”
“I always wanted to try,” said Andy.
“The road is deserted.”
“You know I don’t have life insurance, right?”
“You know, this van is pretty roomy. And no one would see anything we did…”
I was still stuck on the idea of dumping bodies. Certain bodies in particular. “Dude, we don’t have your parents in the car.”
“Exactly. So you, me, a roomy van, a deserted road on a balmy night in Hawaii…”
“OH! Oh, I get it!” And I finally did. Staying with Andy’s parents, we didn’t have a lot of privacy to do the stuff newlyweds like to do. The doors didn’t lock, and his parents didn’t knock. “Hit the gas, babe!
Andy peeled out.
Andy was right. The road (appropriately named “Tantalus Drive”) was full of switchbacks and empty of traffic. We giggled like teenagers the whole way up, enjoyed ourselves in a thoroughly X-rated fashion, and giggled all the way down the hill.
“I can’t believe your parents let you drive this van all through high school and you never took a girl up there before.” I shook my head. “Such a waste.”
“Don’t forget, I drove it in college, too,” he reminded me.
“And now we’ve passed sad and we’re heading into tragic.”
When we opened his parents’ front door, Andy’s mom was sitting in front of the TV. Scowling.
I was in the door first. “Hi, Sunny—”
She stood, interrupting. “Why you so late?! Why you not call?! I call your phone ten times and no answer!”
For once, her glare was directed at someone besides me. Or rather, someone beside me.
Andy shrugged. “Hi, Ma.”
Sunny was not appeased. “Where you been?! And what happened to your phone? Why I have to call so much?!”
I did the prudent thing. I bolted for the bathroom.
I took a shower, flossed my teeth, brushed my teeth, and cracked the bathroom door. Sunny was still bitching. I tiptoed into the hallway.
When she finally paused for breath, Andy merely said, “I put my phone on ‘do not disturb’ for the banquet.”
Sunny: “You should put on vibrate! That way at least it buzzes!” And she was off again.
I closed our bedroom door in a hurry, leaving Andy to at least another ten minutes of haranguing. He endured it far better than I would have. I’d have yelled back after two minutes. There would have been name-calling. Door-slamming. Things might have been thrown. HEAVY things. I pulled a pillow over my head and tried to ignore the sound of Sunny’s voice.
Eventually, Andy sauntered in the bedroom. Relaxed. Whistling, even.
I set the pillow down, confused. “Did your mom apologize?”
Andy laughed at me. “My mom doesn’t know how to apologize.” He undressed and hung up his nice clothes, before sliding into bed next to me. I got a lighthearted kiss. Then the man was asleep in seconds.
I was not. Adrenaline still flowed, though I hadn’t been the one under attack. I could not understand how Andy could be so calm. So cheerful. So unconcerned. I propped myself up on my elbow and stared down at him. The orange light from the digital clock on the bedside table illuminated my husband’s face. I could see a hint of a triumphant smile curving the corners of his mouth.
I looked at the clock. 1:30 AM.
And I understood.
At age 31, my Chinese-American husband had finally taken his parents’ van up the forbidden mountain, gotten laid, and broken his curfew.
He’d achieved his high school dream. For the moment, nothing could touch him.
Not even a Tiger Mother’s fury.