It started the night before, about 9 P.M.
Lou remembered that she was taking her interview to become a U.S citizen the next morning. She needs to be a citizen to collect the social security she has earned over the years. There were 50 something questions she needed to know answers to, about the government. She knows them all by heart. My wife is very smart. I worry she’s smarter than I am—fluent in two languages. I barely know one. Sometimes I have to ask her how to spell English words, or how to do something on Facebook.
It didn’t seem like a big deal that next morning. She left the house at 6:30 and I didn’t think too much about it. Two hours later hour the plumber showed up. We’re trying to get this house in shape—ready to sell. Then I sold some psychology books she’d she was getting rid of on Amazon and needed to wrap and mail them at the post office.
The plumber was missing a part. I went to the hardware store to get what he needed and of course couldn’t find it . . . took forever. The plumber took forever to finish a relatively simple job during which my wife called. She had passed the test. They only asked her 4 questions, she knew all of them of course. It didn’t really matter. She knows more about our government than I do, but she was surprised things went so fast. We’d thought taking the oath would take place in another day or so. But the induction was to be at 11:30.
I didn’t think it would be a big deal at first. It wasn’t like someone coming from a 3rd world country, staking a foothold on another land, a chance to have a life. My wife’s done well both here and Sweden. But it was one of those times where you want to have a couple photographs—an occasion of moment. The plumber finished just in time and I raced to make it to the ceremony just in time . . . two minutes late. Of course things like this never start in time. The procedure went faster than most applicants expected and the applicants families had not had time to get there, so the ritual was delayed—an hour’s wait for loved ones to show up.
The ceremony did not go well. The microphone wasn’t working. You’d think they’d done this show enough times to get it right—bureaucracy. But we could hear him. Applicants were told to be silent, that they were going to be given important information. Children acting out were to be removed from the room. They did of course, and weren’t of course—mothers alone with their young. Some little Asian kid climbed up on the stage and started pulling at the movie screen while waving a small American flag in his other hand. Aspiring actor. Where was mom? Just watching the show I guess. Someone finally came and asked he be removed as applicants filed in, picking up those so valuable papers: a white one, a green one and a certificate with photo.
“Do not lose this,” they were told. “Make sure they are correct. It will cost $350 to get them corrected after today."
There were 56 who’d passed who passed the test—from 26 countries. Amazing: My wife was the only one from Sweden, others came from China, Japan, Bosnia, Croatia, Eritrea, Argentina, Brazil . . . I lost track of the list. When all were seated there was a corny film. The glory of America. Slide show of views, the mountains, Statue of Liberty, New York, the capital, fields, streams and cities. Then a filmed congratulations from the President.
“How lucky you are,” They were told. Then a lecture—not too long. Important things new citizens should know. Law 57938: how to apply for family members, 398786: how to apply for passports . . . on and on. I don’t think anyone paid much attention. Then, all of us stood for a pledge of allegiance. I know it by heart but it always makes me a little uneasy, recalling other pledges made at other times in other countries. “We will defend this land, bear arms if called upon.”
How lucky I have been . . . to be born in America -1938. So many feelings. The Star Spangled Banner was played and I got tears. These 56 people so grateful to be Americans . . . and my leaving. At the same time happy for my wife. She has dual citizenship now. I felt so happy for her, proud of her, and happy all of those lucky people who would now become Americans.
A heavy sadness to be leaving for a year or two.