Friday, July 4, 2014

"The Day I Became An American Citizen"

I had invited nobody to the ceremony.

I was sitting there alone in the cavernous Convention Center, holding my complimentary little flag, having just surrendered my “Green Card” which for the past eighteen years had kept me legally in the country. 

Now my big moment had finally arrived.

I was about to become an American Citizen.

I have written about this before.  How after assiduous preparation I had turned up for my Citizenship Test on the wrong day, and how the embarrassment – and perhaps the realization that I wasn’t quite ready – had pushed off my becoming a citizen for another seven years. 

Meaning it had taken me a quarter of a century to become an American Citizen.

My memories of the event are shadowy.  There was a judge, a collective swearing-in ceremony, the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, a televised “flyover” and a loudspeakered rendition of “And I’m proud To Be An American.” 

And then it was over.

And I had trouble finding my car in the parking garage.

I was born a Canadian.  Plus, I was a “Child of the Sixties.”  Patriotism was for suckers – or for Americans – was the message, sending you to wars you never questioned. 

My personal background led me to downplay this transition.  Today, I have only the vaguest recollection of what happened, my reliable memory infected by debilitating mixed feelings. 

There are two voices inside me that day, a part of me saying, “Remember this moment”, another part saying, “It’s nothing.”

A half of me was wrong.

I will not burden your day with a litany of what I appreciate and what am grateful for, what I have benefitted from and what I admire.  I will only say this.

The haters are cuckoo.  Nobody has a greater capacity for patriotism than  immigrants.

America was not handed to us.  We had to leave home to get here.  We know what we did it for.  And the majority of us are thankful.

I wish I could have that day over again.  I would accord it the recognition it deserves.

Oh, well.

There is a miniature “Stars and Stripes” sitting on my desk.

I think I’ll go plant it in my front yard.

1 comment:

Wendy M. Grossman said...

I am a dual citizen myself; was naturalized in a second country in 1989. It's an odd feeling - I had to swear allegiance in open court, and my American education was so overpowering at that moment that I felt like the sky was about to fall in on me.

I have had many benefits from the decision, but - as you yourself know - the country you grew up in always is an essential part of you.

That said, I've always loathed all forms of patriotic fervor. I was a teen in the 1960s, and I never got over *that*, either.