Just seven more days until the Marching Royal Dukes perform at America’s beloved Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. There are five more days until I depart for my favorite city with a rather large, but amazing group of dedicated individuals.
For those of you know me, I am not one to talk a lot about myself, nor am I the type of person who admits to sentiment (publicly, that is). But right now, I want to share what this parade means to me.
Fifteen years ago, I moved from Thailand to join my immediate family in Virginia. It was a huge adjustment for me in a lot of ways, especially due to overcoming a language barrier and adapting to American customs in general. No matter how difficult it was, I knew that I had to make it here because the conditions in the D.C. suburbs were above and beyond the degraded “inner city” of Bangkok that I lived in. My family worked extremely hard to make sure we lived in an area where I had access to a stellar public school system and such other necessities. Part of the process was assimilating me into American culture which included partaking in traditional holidays like Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. As I perused the channels during my first Thanksgiving morning while my Asian family failed at roasting a turkey, I was mesmerized by an array of holiday festivities on television. I had never seen a parade before that moment and was completely enthralled with seeing children my age dancing in wonderfully strange costumes, bands playing instruments I didn’t know the names of, celebrities donned in sequined puffy vests (this was the early 2000’s and fashion was sort of horrifying then) singing on elaborate floats and colorful gigantic balloons wisping in between these beautiful modern skyscrapers.
As performance after amazing performance continued, it occurred to me that whatever I was watching was a very big deal (I guess since it was on TV). It seemed like all over the nation today, hundreds of people made NYC their destination or tuned in because this celebration is what fueled their holiday spirits and thrilled them for the next two months. I suppose at some point after that, I adopted the tradition as my own. Every Thanksgiving morning thereafter, I had to make sure I woke up at 8 o’clock (a daunting task for any grade schooler) to catch the ribbon cutting that initiate the parade.
At the tender ages of 7 through 14, I was most excited about the dancers. I loved the show makeup and the sparkling outfits as much as I loved and marveled over their impeccably coordinated steps. I began to demand that mother, or whoever was awake at the moment, watched the parade with me because I could simply not confine the excitement for myself. I began to take dance classes in every genre and had recitals my family could not attend since they were always busy making sure the lessons were afforded. In middle school, I took up playing the saxophone and for the first time I took interest in the marching band aspect of the parade. Mind you, it was not that I was taking dance and music lessons in an attempt to be in the parade. I never really pondered how the performers were selected other than they must be very good. And regardless, I was an amateur compared to their standing so I would never have the chance to dance or march down Herald Square. Yet through the years, Macy’s held a very special, albeit commercial, place in my heart. It was the grand look on every performer’s face. Their energy radiated through the television screen and into my home, and perhaps just like their loved ones watching them right now, I felt proud to see them pouring their hearts out in Time Square. This was the type of energy I would pretend to have whenever I performed in a parade as part of the high school color guard.
Watching Macy’s during my first years in America, the smell of great foods, a tremendously loving family, feeling so fortunate in those humble and perfect situations… That’s what this tradition takes me back to. These memories taught me how to dream. Back in Thailand circa 1999, simply coming to America was already an impossible feat for anyone I knew, let alone becoming a first generation university student. I realize that it’s a little bit silly to be caught up in this parade due to the commercial aspects of Macy’s, but it’s one of the small things in life that never mattered because it wasn’t possible. At least it wasn’t up until two years ago when a miraculous turn of events caused it to become my reality.
My mother has been waiting to go back to Thailand and see my grandmother for almost eight years, but she was never able to catch a break until now. In August, she found out that she could finally go and that the round trip was from November 21 to December 5. She was absolutely thrilled, but was set on declining it so that she could watch the Macy’s Day Parade. As you can imagine, I told my very sentimental mother that she had to be insane and that I wouldn’t be onscreen anyway so she must go. This morning, with the promise of having it recorded or else, her flight took off. And as I am wishing her a very safe landing at Incheon International in Seoul for the layover, I am also thinking about Thanksgiving Day. I am thanking her for always working toward, always worrying, and always giving me the best life possible. God bless my beloved uncle Jack for supporting my every ambition and trusting that my dreams will come true. And to my father for fighting for who I am and the values I hold close to my heart.
This year, Macy’s is still just a parade for me. But what it will represent to my family is a bit of the American dream. My current Macy’s cover photo says “Believe” on it. I didn’t make the picture so I didn’t understand why it said that, but little did I know that the word ‘believe’ would resonate more with me now than I realized.
Seven days from today, I’ll be in my favorite city with an incredibly dedicated group of individuals. Maybe I’ll be inspiring someone like me to believe in the possibility of the unlikely, maybe not… More importantly, seven days from now, I know I will be making that five year old me proud.