Holidays were huge in my white family. We wore green, pinched each other anyway, and listened to the Irish Rovers on St. Patrick’s Day (despite being Protestant or atheists). Small gifts appeared on Valentine’s Day morning. There were Easter egg hunts and chocolate bunnies. Our birthdays began with presents and towers of doughnuts. Christmas magic (and excesses) went on for days.
Holidays were not big in my Chinese-American husband’s family. Growing up, he got a red envelope with cash, usually from his Popo, on Chinese New Year.
It’s Chinese New Year, and it’s also my third blogoversary! I bet y’all think I’m gonna do an uplifting or informational post about the Year of the Dog today, right?
Nope. Today I’m gonna talk about just how much a new mattress can improve your life.
When my Chinese-American husband and I didn’t get pregnant on the first try, I consulted my Judgmental Genius Doctor Sister. She told me not to worry and gave me her foolproof method for getting pregnant.
When I got off the phone, Andy said, “Well? Well?!”
“It’s kind of a lot of work,” I warned him. I took a deep breath and said, “We’re supposed to have sex every other day.”
“What?” Andy breathed. “Sex every other day?”
“That’s what Dr. Sis says,” I told him. “Every other day for 10 days after I finish my period.”
“Making a baby is awesome!” Andy shouted. After he calmed down, though, he groaned and said, “Time to get that new mattress.”
We’d been putting off the new mattress because we knew we needed an expensive one. The need for an expensive mattress was Andy’s fault. While the man was a perfect husband in many ways – good person, good job, good sense of humor, good cook, good around the house – his physical form was riddled with design flaws. He had retinas that were prone to tearing. Same with his meniscus – in both knees. He had infection-induced asthma. A cyst in his heel. His hearing isn’t that great either, although I suspect that might be by choice, especially when he ostensibly slept through my screaming, “Get up! The dog is puking!” at 2 AM.
Worst of all, Andy had recently learned he had compressed discs in his back. Physical therapy could only do so much. The doctor told him to get a really, really good mattress. Do you know how much a top-of-the-line mattress costs? It costs at least two mortgage payments. My Chinese-American husband is very frugal, especially about luxuries he can’t truly enjoy because he’s unconscious. He balked, opting to sigh and groan and moan about his aching back.
As soon as Andy learned there would be loads of conscious fun time on a mattress, he picked out the most expensive one. He called daily to see when it would be delivered. The day it arrived, Andy came home early and we got busy…
Only to be interrupted by the doorbell. The dogs went nuts.
We dove under the covers.
“They’ll go away,” Andy said. “Let’s pretend we’re not home.”
The doorbell stopped – and pounding on the door began. “Autumn? Autumn! Did you get something delivered? I saw a truck!”
It was our neighbor, Gin. Gin was one of the original owners in our neighborhood. She was a widow who’d raised five kids on the block, now lived alone, and was pushing ninety. Gin charged across the street when she saw me gardening, thrilled to have a new neighbor that hadn’t lived or heard all her stories:
“You know that gurneys and wheelchairs won’t fit into these little houses, right? When my husband died, I told the paramedics to stay outside, then I wrapped him up in a sheet and they carried him out that way.”
“I was one of the first people to visit China after Nixon! And I have a cheongsam from Hong Kong, too – did you know they have a polo club there?”
Gin was a bit of a hoarder, but she was also a giver. She’d pop over with a Halloween house flag “to match your black cats” or gorgeous glass Christmas ornaments “because I saw your tree in the window and it looked so pretty!”
Once she learned I had a paperweight collection, she gave me two more.
She had advice on the summer fungus that attacked my roses.
Andy helped her when she struggled with her trashcans, even though he complained that she’d trap him with her stories for hours. He decided to share the joy, and sent the guys who investigated him annually (for his top secret security clearance) over to interview Gin.
One of them came to our house afterwards and said, “Ha, ha, do you have any real neighbors that I can interview in under two hours?”
Since I worked from home and often brought her baked goods, Gin got in the habit of popping by whenever she felt like it. I’d been raised to be a good hostess NO MATTER WHAT, which meant I probably made Gin feel a little too welcome, too regularly. It never occurred to her that I might be working on a book – or a baby.
Gin kept hollering. “Autumn! Are you in the backyard?! Hello!”
Andy whispered, “How long before she goes away?”
I giggled. “She’s not going away.”
“Nope. She can see our car, she can hear the dogs, she knows we’re home.”
“We’re doomed,” Andy moaned.
“Autumn! Autumn!” called Gin. “Where are you?”
Andy sighed. “I guess you’d better go answer the door.”
“Or…YOU could answer it! And solve a little problem for me,” I said, a brilliant realization dawning.
Andy answered the door in his bathrobe. As Gin’s jaw dropped, Andy explained that yes, a truck had come — with a brand new mattress. “Autumn is a little busy right now. But I’m sure she’ll see you soon and tell you how well the new mattress works.”
Gin went home without saying a word.
The next day, I brought her some cookies and started to apologize.
She cut me off. “Oh, no, Autumn, no, I am so sorry! I had no idea. It’s been a long time, and I think I’d forgotten what it was like to be a young married couple. But then I saw your husband in his robe and my!” Gin trailed off, fanning herself. She gave me a grin and said, “What is it you young people say? Andy is quite the sly dawg, isn’t he?”
I agreed. Later, I saw Gin chatting with a few other neighbors. Word got around. Andy and I got a few snickers questions about our new “mattress.”
In the Chinese Zodiac, Andy was born in the Year of the Dog, which starts today with the new moon. Andy even embodies the very best attributes of the Dog; he’s honest, faithful, smart, and has a strong sense of responsibility.
But in my neighborhood? Andy is the Dawg.
Bet your friends would like this (unless they're racists):