My story is not that particularly exciting, but I like to think that my ending is. I was a toddler when my family moved to New Jersey from Germany. With a Croatian mother and a very strict German father, I learned English watching Sesame Street and playing with the neighbors . I was a German Jersey girl.
Growing up, I was known as The German Girl. In high school, Daddy shipped me to Germany for what he called a 2 year cultural experience. Living with my less over-bearing family members, I called it freedom! Despite the fun I was having doing adventurous and troublesome things with other German teenagers, they all considered me the American girl. I had a big problem with that. Why wasn't I just like them? I spent my entire life as a German. The furniture and even the wallpaper in our house in Jersey were from Germany, if you can believe it. A sleepover invitation to my house was highly coveted among my friends because, with cases of Nutella brought back with each trip, we served chocolate on toast for breakfast! Americans could overlook our weird, overly-Germanic ways for a treat like that. So I was emphatic that I wasn't an American, and my German friends thought I was silly to deny it.
Years later I found myself marrying an American guy. His family has the typical story; immigrants from generations past, so he is American through and through. And now, 13 years later, we have American babies. I had many successes in both my personal and career lives prior to children. However, when I became a mommy, I realized <em>who</em> I really was. I don't have to tell you how big the blessings are when you have children, anyone called mom realizes that life starts with them. One of the many reasons I homeschool my children is because I don't want to share their childhood with strangers- simple as that. They are our biggest blessings and I want to enjoy every moment I can with them. That naturally makes me just as protective as the next parent. Then one day I had a thought about the world and how crazy it is: What if something as simple as my citizenship kept me from my family?
Call it paranoia or just long overdue, but I started the process of becoming an American citizen, as my daughter puts it, “so we'll all be the same.” Quickly it became more than paperwork and family unity. I had never been politically opinionated, had always only marginally paid attention to the news. I only paid attention to what was most important to me and mine. I think many of us are guilty of that. But I became more aware of what was happening around me, in our country, in our world. By filing paperwork to start the naturalization process, I started to really become an American.
I think too many American-born citizens take it for granted. It is your right to be a citizen if you're born here, but I wonder how many actually think about it. I like that the government does not fool around with this process. Generations upon generations of this country have come to the United Stated to pursue and earn the privilege of becoming citizens; it should never be taken lightly. Should someone like myself who has a full American education (K-12), including a college degree, be allowed to pass on the requirement to prove that I can write, read, and clearly speak English? Should a non-English speaking person seeking citizenship take the tests with an interpreter, when the goal is to show that they can be a functioning, contributing citizen in this country? So maybe it's not perfect, but it is the process which makes the United States such a beautiful country, the melting pot.
It has now been exactly one year since I stood in that Federal court room. I listened as the INS representative asked again and again, “Would you be ready to bear arms for this country if called upon?” separately, to 56 individuals. Many just nodded and I wondered, do they even know what a privilege it is to be asked that? If someone came knocking on my door and said our country is under attack and we need you to help protect your family, will you do it? You bet I would. I would stand there and protect my little American family and our privileged way of life and all its freedoms, with everything I have in me. And it was there in that room that I felt like a minority. It had nothing to do with the color of anyone's skin or the cultures that they brought into the room. I think most of the applicants were answering without a thought, just as a formality and that their answer wasn't as deep in their hearts as it was in mine. I think I was really one of the only people in the room that got it. There were 56 of us becoming citizens that day, representing 49 different countries, and it was the first time in my life, that I truly felt like a real American. I finally knew who I am. I am an American Mommy.
Submitted by Moni (AngelnBabyDollsMommy) of TriadMommies.