My parents and I arrived in the United States in 1982. They were graduate students trying to make an honest living and raise a family. There were no “New to America Mentors” for refugees or international students. No one came to help teach the nuances of American culture. My parents, although highly educated people, missed the mark on a few holidays and terms. In retrospect, I’d give them an “A” for effort on one particular Halloween (not celebrated in Africa) snafu.
My elementary school in Carbondale, Illinois had a school wide Halloween parade. In Kindergarten I wore a Cabbage Patch costume complete with a white mask, red yarn hair, and an oversized smock. I was happy as a clam, thinking nothing of the fact that my mother dressed me up as a white girl for my first Halloween celebration.
But it was my first grade costume that still takes the cake. Apparently, I told my mom I wanted to be a bunny – the innocent creature that eats up your garden vegetables and frolics in the woods. So, I was a bunny. Fifteen years later, while looking through pictures I saw it, my first grade bunny costume. I was dressed in a leotard, white tights, cufflinks, a pin on tail, and a bunny ear headband. The costume was a spitting image of the Playboy bunny!
My Liberian mother unknowingly put me in a Playboy bunny costume! When I confronted my mom, she laughed and said, “You wanted to be a bunny, so I put you in a bunny costume.” God bless her heart. What I’d give to see the look on the faces of my first grade teacher and all the parents at the parade when little 6-year-old Liberian me strutted out as a Playboy bunny for the all school parade.