My Citizenship Oath Ceremony was very special, an intimate and private moment, just me and 3,000 of my closest friends in an event hall at the Pomona Fairplex:
That's 3,000 applicants who'd all brought their families to share in their special day. Everybody's letter said 'Pomona Fairplex, Building 4, 8am'.
10,000 people all trying to be in one building at 8am on the nose. Of course, no-one realized quite how big the event was, so when you're stuck in traffic trying to get in to the Fairplex, and you're already twenty minutes late for your really important legal proceeding, and you're not sure if you're in the correct queue or accidentally in line for a Monster Truck Rally, you can get a tad anxious.
Did I mention that one of the main reasons I became a citizen was so that I would NEVER have to deal with the INS again?
I obviously wasn't the only one dealing badly with the stress of it all - as we filed like cattle in to the warehouse, Anna pointed out a big lake of 'barf' on the tarmac. Nice. At the entrance to the building we were separated and I waved goodbye to my family. So much for having the girls learn about the Citizenship process. We hadn't planned for that, so I had the spare diapers in my handbag and throughout the next 2 hours LK sent me texts like 'how much longer???' or 'situation critical, she's going to blow!'
We waited an age for everyone to file in - in the meantime we were encouraged to fill out our voter registration paperwork - but, and they repeated this several times 'please do not sign it as you are not citizens yet'.
The proceedings finally kicked off 75 minutes late, and we all stood up to swear our oath. Except, given the logistics of everything, it's very hard to hear someone addressing 10,000 people, so I *may* have failed to speak every line, and I *may* have failed to renounce any allegiance to any foreign prince or potentate. Quite frankly, uttering an oath like that only days after Prince William announced his engagement to Kate Middleton should be unconstitutional. I know where my allegiances truly lie.
Then the Judge gave his own inspirational story of his family's journey to America, and he congratulated us on making a great decision for ourselves and for our families, and said "Isn't America the best country in the world! Isn't it? Let's see those flags - wave those flags!".
This was a Citizenship ceremony, so a little jingoism could be expected. But then....
We were given a recorded video address by Barack Obama, which was great, appropriate, and humbling. He addressed us as 'my fellow Americans' and spoke of the privileges and responsibilities of being a citizen. This was what I was expecting.
What I wasn't anticipating was the music video of 'Proud To Be An American' by Lee Greenwood. As my friend Mooks later said, maybe a short film by Ken Burns, something a little classier? But no, country music, tacky patriotism by Disney. Urgh.
I don't know what I was really expecting from the ceremony. Something a little less industrial, definitely. I don't know why they don't do it on a smaller, more civic level. I know they used to. Perhaps the numbers are too large, the costs too enormous. It certainly was a little overwhelming.
As for me, I didn't think I would feel any different. My friend Jen put it perfectly, it's like marrying a bloke you've been living with for fifteen years, I didn't really expect it to change anything (except I'm waiting for the jury duty summons - any day now....). My friends helped me celebrate; an apple pie, a sweet Obama '08 t-shirt, champagne, and this:
In the end I was surprised though. We drove back up the coast, past a perfect Malibu sunset and it suddenly hit me that I'm American now. I had my Ken Burns moment. This land is my land. I'm not any less British, but I belong here now too. (and lets not dwell on how much debt I've just inherited....)
I think that's going to take a little getting used to, for both of us.