Christopher Robin gained his US citizenship on Wednesday. It’s a fairly long process, involving interviews and tests and proof of travel dates outside of the country (try figuring out exactly when you traveled for the past decade). We went up to Denver in the morning for the naturalization ceremony.
It was remarkably moving. The ceremony was held in a beautiful theater setting at a college, and although I tried to get some decent photos, very few were worth saving. I especially tried to take pictures of the little boy next to me, who had to get up and get little flags for himself and his mother. She wore a yellow scarf over her head, and the demure but embellished dress of an African muslim. Her son was about five, exuberant, full of excitement, with a totally American accent. She spoke to him in a language I didn’t know, soft and sibilant; he spoke back to her in that entirely American voice. His father stood up to look for them (family and friends were in the back) a tall, serious looking black man in a suit and tie. The boy exploded in delight, “Daddy!” he waved his flag. “We’re right here!” I caught his mother’s eye and she beamed at me. I beamed back.
He waved his flag and said all the words, reciting the plege of allegiance and the oath of citizenship.
There were 290 people there, from 69 countries. A big group from Mexico (as we are in Colorado, after all), but also from Germay and Iraq and Russia and China and Vietnam and Peru …..many, many places.
I found it moving, far more so than I expected. The tidy suits and the good shoes relaying the importance of the day. The dizzying number of languages I heard around me, the distance some of them must have come to be here. How difficult! How extraordinary! The girl on my left was blonde and young and very pretty. She spoke –Polish?– into her cell phone, holding like a walkie talkie. She wore loops of scarves and long socks and boots. How did she get here? What was her journey? I saw a skinny black man, exquisitely tidy but for his very much too big suit coat, elegant bones in his radiant face. Where was he born? What is his native tongue? A tiny old woman with very black hair and sturdy laced shoes and a blue coat. Where did she begin the journey?
Probably some of them were making purely pragmatic choices. Perhaps for some, like CR, it was just finally time.
But for others, it was a fine, fine day. That father and his little boy, now American. I wanted to drink up every story, hear the journey of each and every one, take their pictures and listen and listen. Instead, I simply played witness. How extraordinary!
Afterward, CR and I had lunch at PF Changs to celebrate, and it was a very fine day. Even if he’s ever so British (American) and would never exactly say it just that way.