Life According to Tommy & Maxi
Published in Great South Bay Magazine April 2003

Tommy

I am handsome and exotic looking, definitely from good breeding. My adopted dad nicknamed me “snowball.” He always says, “I’d enter you in beauty contests if I only knew you could behave in crowds.” I say nothing out of respect for him. Who wants to participate in the mindless contests anyway? I wonder if he knows the meaning of “Beauty is only skin deep.”

   I feel lucky to be part of the family. My parents always make a big deal about my older brother Maxi and me. The outfits that they made us wear last year for the holiday greeting card photograph cost more than $150. Once Mom put a pearl necklace on me for a house party, I felt like a prince. I walked around mingling with people the whole evening. I was annoyed when Dad said to a beautiful girl at the party, “Isn’t he a ham? He looks like a girl with that necklace on!”

   Hanging on the white dogwood outside our kitchen window is a beautiful handcrafted birdhouse. Mommy put it there so cardinals, mockingbirds and martins can perform their chorus and entertain us on lazy summer afternoons while she’s at work.

   Mom loves watching movies with us in front of the big screen TV. When seeing something scary, she covers her eyes with one hand and squeezes me with another. Maxi acts strange as far as movies go: he is not afraid of Cujo and Carrie but trembles at the sight of the Chinese man in The Good Earth.

    Maxi and I are not allowed to go outdoors without adult supervision. I’ll never forget the episode on one glorious day last October. Dad put a strap on my body and let me sit on the outside deck. The strap was attached to a long rope, which was tied to the leg of the cedar barbeque table. I wandered around happily until I saw a squirrel running beneath the deck. I was so excited that I ran through the wood slats. For twenty minutes I was dangling ten feet above ground in the strap until Dad finally heard my screams and freed me.

   I am a “mama’s boy” now (that’s what Dad calls me) but it was not like that from the start. I love to tell my story of my adoption and my first meeting with my parents. Two years ago, Mommy was heart-broken after her eleven-year-old died of a kidney problem at the end of a six-month struggle. My father said, “The best way to deal with the loss is to take in a replacement immediately.” Initially my mother refused to listen, she said, “We’re betraying the memory of our lost one if we do that.”

   After a few days, she gave in to my father’s persistence. She stipulated however, that the newcomer must have the same features like the deceased one. My father immediately took time off from work and went to adoption agencies in search for the replacement from Long Island to New Jersey, but he failed to find what my mother wanted.

   One day he called her office and said, “I found a beautiful boy with the face that you adored. I fell in love with him two days ago when I saw him the first time. I’m exhausted from running around all week; I’m going through with the adoption papers.”

   When my mother met us at the door in her round, smiling Chinese face, I instantly knew that my life would be grand in this new household. As I licked my mouth thinking shrimp wontons, Moo Shu pork and minced beef with bean curd, she narrowed her apricot-shaped eyes and cried, “Oh no! He’s white! Yes, he has the same face like the deceased one but not the same color!” She paused a little. “I want only a yellow one, like the one I loved and lost!”

   “Love is color-blind. You will grow to love him. He’s gorgeous.”

   “No! Take him back! I don’t want him!”


Maxi

The first time I saw my Chinese mother in the adoption agency, I feared my fate. I heard tales from my natural mother and her mother that ancient Chinese ate dogs, cats, ox and even babies in the starvation years. But she acted lovingly, rubbed my head and touched my face with gentle hands. Her body had a lilac scent that soothed me. After she examined me, she walked out of the room to talk to the administrator, and then back to the room with a big, bearded man.

   She pointed at me and said to him, “I like the chubby one, the one with the tattooed “X” on his left earlobe. Though his face is different from my lost one, he is yellow—the color I want. Let’s adopt him. Have you made arrangement to return the white one?”

  The man shrugged. “The agency has a no-return policy. It’s fine if you want to adopt this one too. Having a brother to share and play with is fun for both boys.”

  The bearded man turned out to be my father, who likes to rub his face against mine and let me nap on top of him. He calls me “the miniature lion.” Mom named me Maxi because of my maximum roundness. When I walk, my flesh flaps the air. Mom’s constant talk of dieting irritates me, yet she loves to run her tender hand through the pouch on my belly.

   My new home is full of love and laughter. No one has tried to stick needles in me like the people in my last home. I hated tattooing, and I imagine that acupuncture is no fun either. My parents often hug and lock lips. I’ve no problem seeing the PG13 actions except the few times that they forgot I was in the arms of one of them and almost suffocated me in the process.

   My maternal grandmother visits often. She loves to cut and chop things on the butcher-block in the kitchen. I run to hide under the bed whenever I hear the sharpening sound of her shining cleaver. Tommy asked me once why I needed to hide. I replied, “It is better to be safe than be sorry. I love to be an addition to the family, but not an addition to the menu.” Tommy smacked my head and called me “dumbo.”

   Tommy is a showboat: regal-looking and trim. His leanness puzzles me as he eats more than I do—may be he has better genes and metabolism. We share toys, bathroom facility as well as our daily gourmet meals. We enjoy each other’s company and often take naps together. I only hit Tommy when he dominates Mommy and Daddy’s pillows in bed. I know that it’s wrong to bully him, but I suppose that being older and bigger has certain privileges. Thank God that we always kiss and make up at the end of the day. As Mom often says to Dad,” To maintain a good relationship, never go to bed angry.”

   My dad says, “My two boys are my best friends. Their best quality is that they never talk back.” I adore my Daddy, who is funny, macho and cool.

   Life is not always fair though. When Mommy ruins her sheer stockings and silk sweaters with her long nails, she goes for a manicure and pedicure combo treat. Last month Tommy and I played hide-and-seek around the sound system and damaged the mesh-covered amplifier, Mommy rushed us to the veterinarian to have our paws de-clawed. Ouch!


Click here to view Tommy and Maxi