History Class Reading

Last night I read a piece by Carlos Bulosan. The anthology containing his work states he’s the first and most important Filipino-American writer. The excerpt came from his book, On Becoming Filipino.

I wish I could describe his voice in my head as I read. I wonder if others heard the accents from the dialogue, as well as the narrative. I wonder if they could feel the longing for the two main characters – who lived along the West Coast in the WWII era – to become American.

It’s not that I internalized the piece; it’s that the piece exhumed and awoke something already within me, gently poking to make sure it’s still alive.

Reading that excerpt sort of messed with my head. I’m still trying to process it all.

Broad Stripes and Bright Stars

Officially, this is my first Independence Day as an American citizen. A draft of something lengthy and involved and emotional and largely unfinished sits on my laptop. I hope it emerges eventually.

I love this country. I love my freedoms here. I love the servicemen who devote their lives to keep this country safe and relatively secure. I love this country’s founding fathers and their vision. I want their vision, especially when we get things wrong.

I love my family and their sacrifice and unending support. I love my friends.

I love seeing new and different people every day, making eye contact that means we know we’re in the greatest country in history.

These thoughts are no different from previous years. But a friend reminded me yesterday of my citizenship, and I got excited, and I started clapping, and now there’s all this … power.

I’ve lived and worked and thought like an American for all of my life. People have assumed I was American for just as long.

And now I am. I wish I could describe it. There’s nothing like it.

Happy Independence Day. Happy July 4th. Share the excitement about being American.

I’m off to a picnic and maybe attempt to watch the fireworks. We’ll see.

Ah, Grasshoppers

Patience. I informed you the photos from the previous post will have to suffice for now. Yesterday is not something I want to rattle off without any introspect. Yesterday meant a lot to me. It will take some time to process and express it thoughtfully. You know me. My becoming American just isn’t American voting and American jury duty and taking a peculiarly worded oath. Like I said, yesterday was phenomenal, but I’m going to ruminate a while so that you’ll know that I mean phenomenal in its hyperextended superlative form. Phenomenalest-est-est-est-ultramegagoogol-est doesn’t quite cut it for me. It’s the experience I want to share.

Thanks again for your support and friendship and love. You truly added significance and power to my day yesterday.

Today Is NOT the End of the Road, Mr. Immigration Man!

It’s late. I had a phenomenal day. I don’t even know where to begin. Even if I did, I wouldn’t know how to describe today. Hopefully this photo does a sufficient job. It started with me becoming American:

Courtesy of Marcus Bowers
Courtesy of Marcus Bowers

 That’s right, America. May is in the house.

And, the day ended with some amazing Americana:

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More later, of course.

Haiku Sleep Anxiety, Naturalization Version

She watches the clock
She wants to be sleepy now
But she’s excited

She cannot focus
Her words are a scattered mess
Like toddlers and toys

She’s almost thirty-three
She could have done it sooner
Now is just as well

The years pass quickly
Blurring life with life’s events
And yet minutes drag

Visualizing
Her motherland. It’s not quite
Her homeland. It’s here.

She’s here, awake, still.
Living the dream, so alive.
American dream.

It’s About Time

It’s 10:37PM.

I’ve tried on three different outfits. I won’t try on any more. I had envisioned wearing slacks, but this is definitely a skirt occasion.

It is the eve of my Americanization.

Tonight is the last night of not being able to vote.

Tonight is the last night of not being qualified to work a federal job.

Tonight is the last night I’ll be able to avoid jury duty for the reason of not being an American citizen.

Tonight will turn into tomorrow morning.

And it will be today. A new dawn.

8:30AM, raring to go.

In a skirt.

American Memory

She sat at her computer. She’d been thinking all day what she could do. It was Saturday afternoon, November 15, 2008. Her mom and stepdad had left just the day before. She threw a pretty big party three days ago. That was a lot of fun.

It had been a little more than two weeks since her interview. Her officer told her she passed the test, but she was anxious because for some reason she had two (2) alien registration numbers. Why would she have two? She didn’t even know about that second number until her interview. Her mind raced, her heart seemed to stop. It was 1982; she was six years old. She wasn’t supposed to worry about her status in America.

She brought her thoughts back to the present. She was going to a party that evening. It was going to be variety-show style. She considered only showing up as a spectator, but it sounded most everyone was going to perform. The butterflies fluttered in her stomach. She knew she had to do something.

She had an idea of what she would do. She spent the rest of the afternoon working on her act. She paced the words. She tried different speeds until one felt right. She snapped her fingers.

She took a shower.

She put on a cute shirt and her good jeans.

She did her makeup.

She stepped out and hopped on the subway uptown.

She arrived at the party destination. People were still setting up the living room. There was a posterboard that listed those who wanted to perform. Someone asked her where she wanted to be in the lineup. She said she wanted to be somewhere in the middle. She announced she’d be doing a recitation.

Everyone could make up a name tag. The name tags needed to say “I am [something positive and catchy].”

She put on her name tag. 

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The party started.

There was speed drawing.

And song spoofing.

And sign language.

And magic tricks.

And “Thriller” dancing.

She followed the (American) Pledge of Allegiance in French.

She introduced her act by saying she was going to stay with the patriotic theme. She announced her successful interview. The crowd clapped. She said she was going to recite the Preamble to the Constitution. She said she would love it if the crowd accompanied her by humming “God Bless America.”

She snapped her fingers. The humming began.

We the people.

The humming continued.

Promote the general Welfare.

The humming came close to ending.

She decided to slow it way down, since she started too fast.

DO! ORDAIN! AND ESTABLISH! THIS! CONSTITUTION! FOR THE! UNITED STATES! OF! AMERICA!

My home sweet home.

Many cheers from the crowd. She pumped her fists in the air. The applause was loud. She felt proud. She thanked everyone. She gave a few high fives and sat down quickly.

The following act was a Russian revolutionary chant.

Of course it was.

***

SO close, people. Hours away, really. Exciting!

In Case You Didn’t Know

I get to swear in public!

Hey, all. Here’s the information for the citizenship ceremony. Oh, if I haven’t told you yet: I’m swearing in!

Friday, February 20, 2009
26 Federal Plaza, 7th Floor
8:30 AM

It’s a public ceremony, so: behave. If you’re coming, meet me at the front (Broadway) entrance at 8AM. I’ll be catching the A train from my apartment at 7:20 and getting off at Chambers Street. Let me know if you have any questions.

Just to let you know, I’m not sure how much waiting around there’s going to be. This is the government, so there will be waiting.

I don’t need to tell some of you to leave your weapons at home …

I hope to see you there.

May “the American!” Anderton

***

New York City is probably the best place to do this. I can’t think of anywhere else that is more diverse and will have a bigger crowd of immigrants. This is probably one of the most exciting days of my life.

They Knew I Was Going to Call Them This Week

May Venancio Anderton

You are hereby notified to appear for a Naturalization Oath Ceremony on:

Friday, February 20, 2009 …

Please report promptly at 8:30 AM

*****

It’s midnight. I just got home. Everyone else is in bed. I saw this piece of mail sitting on the foyer table and I patiently took off my jacket and boots before I opened the envelope and read its contents. I raised the letter in the air and whispered a triumphant “Yes!”

Yes, jury duty. Yes, voting. Yes. Yes, United States citizenship.

Wooooo-hoo! Yippee! YAY! AAAAAHHHH! WEEEEEEE!

I wish I could describe how I feel. I’ll probably be weeping that entire morning. I’m trying to keep calm right now. My heart is so full.

This is for real, y’all. Ten more days until I become a jury-serving, voting machine.