Updated: May 7, 2020
By Sunny Zhang
COVID-19 tales from Boston, MA.
Baozi is my son. He was born in 2012, the year of the dragon. I nicknamed him Xiao Long Bao which means, “the baby born in the year of the dragon.” The name just happens to have the same pronunciation as a Chinese food: xiaolongbao, or steamed bun. Over time, his nickname was simplified to Baozi, another way of saying steamed bun.
Baozi recites a classical Chinese poem.
Baozi is half Chinese and half white. He spent his first six years in China. I only brought him to America last year when he was old enough for school. A 7-year-old can’t really understand concepts like race or nationality. He misses China, especially his friends and nanny back in Shanghai.
When COVID-19 began to spread in Boston, Baozi asked me, “Where did the virus come from?”
I contemplated for a second and told him, “The scientists are trying to find out.”
He looked me in the eye and said, “I hope the people responsible confess, otherwise God will punish them!”
A few days later, he changed his mind. After watching a video teaching people how to pray, he told me he had decided to forgive those responsible for the pandemic since God said we needed to pray for everyone, even those who commit crimes.
One early morning, as Baozi munched on a freshly baked croissant with crispy bacon and melted cheese inside, he said very seriously, “Donald Trump is a bad guy!”
“What is it about now?” I asked, wiping down the kitchen counter.
“He called it the Chinese virus.” He stopped biting. His eyes turned red. “Everyone knows I’m from China.”
“It’s okay. Trump can’t hurt you. There are laws to protect American citizens and you’re an American citizen.”
“Am I a citizen?” His eyes brightened. “I thought I wasn’t one. So I don’t need to be afraid?”
“No. Did someone give you trouble at school?”
He shook his head. “People at school are nice, but I’m not talking about normal people.”
“What do you mean? Isn’t Trump a normal person?”
“No. Trump wants to fight China.” His eyes welled up again.
“You know,” I started, weighing my words. “Trump won't fight against the Chinese people. He just wants to fight against the Chinese government which has made bad decisions.”
“Why does he want to fight the government?”
I tried to summarize what Trump said on TV and translate it into plain English. Luckily, Trump’s education is roughly equal to that of a 4th or 5th grader.
While I talked, Baozi relaxed and bowed his head to eat more. “Everyone still says Trump’s a bad guy.” He said between bites.
“Not everyone. If everyone thinks he is a bad guy, how was he elected president? Some people like him a lot.”
He was lost, wondering who those people were.
I decided to cheer him up, “Trump sent us money. You got $500.”
“$500? Where is it? Can I see?” He looked excited.
“It’s in my account.”
“Why is it in your account? I want it!”
“What do you need money for? Can you go out and buy food to feed yourself? I’ll give it to you tomorrow if you can do that.”
He looked at his croissant and shook his head, “Never mind.”
“Is Trump still a bad guy?”
He thought for a while, and said in a diplomatic tone, “It’s complicated.”
A question suddenly came to me. I knew it was one even an adult couldn’t answer, but I wanted to hear what his instinct said. I asked, “What if Trump wants to go to war with China? Which side are you going to be on?”
I looked him in the eyes.
“I will tell them to stop fighting because it's wrong.” He waved his croissant, looking very resolute. “The president should create world peace!”
"Good boy!" I smiled.
Sunny Zhang was born and raised in Shanghai, China. She is living in Boston with her lovely son. She is a surfer riding the internet wave and a writer at heart.