Inside our red packet was a shiny new copper penny and twenty dollar bill.
It was the only time he gave us money. The amount was carefully squandered
making Chinese New Year a holiday bigger than Christmas where the gifts from
Mom were modest due to income.
Before leaving on his New Year escapade he set off a long string of firecrackers early in the morning from the eve of the house front porch to protect the house and us from devils descending from the sky. He was superstitious and saw odd omens in such things as a dead bird in the backyard.
With Chinatown connections Dad bought my brothers firecrackers for the Fourth
of July. They paid him 5 cents a pack and re-sold them to neighborhood boys for
25 creating a temporary influx of contraband cash flow. The pack labels had a picture
of a Camel with sand background on colorful red, green and yellow wrapping
paper with, "Made In Macau" written on it.
Our family’s prestige and disposal income jumped up with the bangs of
firecrackers in the neighborhood, evidence of our sudden wealth. Occasionally
the fire marshal attempted to hunt down the source of the noise but I served as
a safe courier and Mom provided a good cover of ignorant innocence at the front
While Dad was superstitious he was not religious. His deity, luck mostly
ignored his pleas. Once in a while he won big and we would be rich for a day or
two and eat out. When he was home he filled the house with personality if not
wealth. We all tried to please him. I thrived on the little attention he gave
such as cooking together.
While leaving us on the financial edge I still looked up to him but vowed
never to marry one like him.