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Lions Roar : November 2018
When my name was called, I ran. I don’t remember why I ran but remember the thumping sound of my bare feet on the hol- low stage. I remember the laughter in the audience, the point- ing, the amused claps, the classic sound of Thai amazement Ohhhhhh hooooo. Because I was five, because I didn’t understand anything, because then I was always laughed at, not with, I cried. I cried so hard my father carried me off the stage, laughing too. I could feel the chuckle in his chest against my wet cheek. I cried so hard tears smeared my mustache, and it looked as if I had rolled in dirt. I won the costume contest. The prize: a gift certificate to a Thai restaurant in downtown Chicago. I think now about that moment on stage. About that laugh- ter. About the complexities that existed in that collective reac- tion. How that costume was a symbol, a connection to home. It incurred memories, perhaps, of Thailand and the long stretches of rice fields, the waving green that moved like gentle waves. How wearing it was an honor to Thailand’s most prized export, jasmine rice, how we were taught never to leave a grain uneaten because of the meticulous work to cultivate the rice, and the privilege of having it on our plate. That costume, I would learn later, was in honor of my great-great-grandfather on my mother’s side, who worked under the hot son, his feet always in the marshy land, his fingers collecting pellets of rice. In that laughter was community. We kids didn’t understand this because we were kids and we were born here. Our dreams, our costumes, were a reflection of the world we lived in, a world where a boy could soar into the air, and shoot laser beams from his eyes, and blow a wind that toppled houses, his pink cape snug around his neck. ON BODHI’S FIRST HALLOWEEN—he was about four months old—my wife and I dressed him as a dog. My wife was the mommy dog. I bought a cheap fish- ing net at the hardware store and wore cargo shorts and a white T-shirt and was the dogcatcher. On Bodhi’s second Halloween, he was an elephant. My wife was a monkey, and I was a gorilla, both of us wearing full body costumes that were agonizingly hot on a warm October day in Florida. Our everyday identities: a beautiful biracial boy of a white mother and Thai American father, who still wrestles with what it means to be American (sometimes a Thai costume, sometimes a white costume), hoping his son will have a firmer sense of self, but knowing he is at the very beginning of a long journey. This year we ask Bodhi what he wants to be. “Hello, it’s Halloween,” he sings. “Do you want to be a pirate?” “Aye,” he says. He dons a paper pirate hat. “Do you want to be a witch?” He zips around the room on a witch’s broom his grandpar- ents gave him. “Do you want to be a pirate witch?” Hello, it’s Halloween plays on the TV. He sings along, flying on his broom, raising in one hand a sword that is actually a back scratcher. It is the middle of summer. Everything is green and lush, the heat like a suffocating embrace. My boy is in the world of his creation. He is in control. Halloween, to him, is not a day. It is a way of being. A belief that you can be anybody and anything, even a pirate witch. That this world, right now, is ripe with possibility. ♦ IRA SUKRUNGRUANG’s most recent book is Buddha’s Dog & Other Meditations. Ira’s son Bodhi dressed up as an elephant for his second Halloween. LION’S ROAR | NOVEMBER 2018 71