Name A State That Borders Mexico

CANT

No, wait, I can! It’s an mnemonic to remind me of the answer to that question — a question that I was asked this morning on my Citizenship test for the US.

(California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, in case you’re wondering. Thanks, Kev!).

This morning I woke up stretched out across a king-sized bed in a hotel in the city. All alone.

I got up and went into the bathroom. I didn’t worry about tripping over a small person on my way. I knew it would be free. I knew it would be quiet.

It was strange, and, it occurred to me it had been a long time since any of those things had been true.

Of course, soon I was texting and sending photos back and forth with my boys, so it felt like they were just in the next room.

As I let my hotel room door swing closed behind me, I felt a moment of panic. I’m not used to doing this alone. I reminded myself that I have stayed in hotels alone before, when I was a competent businesswoman. The reality is that I was much less competent in many ways back then, before I was a mother. I was responsible for things that were so much less important than the things I look after now. But the fact remains I’m not used to traveling alone anymore. I’m used to being part of a family team/ In our team the deal is: I make sure everyone is fed, dressed in something that won’t offend decency laws, and standing within arms’ reach, and K handles all the bookings, check-ins, technology-chargers and making sure we don’t get locked out of hotel rooms. The thought that my lovely and organized husband was not standing behind me patting the pocket that held HIS room key, made my heart race just a bit.

(I had my room key).

After breakfast, I stomped the few city blocks to the immigration building. It’s actually called something much more complicated now, but I know what I mean.

Every other time I’ve been there, there has been a line of people stretching down the street and around the corner.

This morning, however, there was nothing. Just a security guard and a few people standing around talking.

I went inside, showed my appointment card and ID, dropped all my stuff in a bucket and stepped through the metal detector. (It was like being at the airport only I got to keep my shoes on)

The building is not new and the elevator was, well, not ‘tiny’ but not exactly designed for the modern American ass, that’s all I’m saying. You probably should have been able to fit about ten people in there, but the six of us riding up to the second floor filled it up just fine.

(The fact that we were taking an elevator to the second floor might have something to do with the aforementioned assets).

Down a little maze of beige, ‘you-could-be-anywhere’ government corridors and I handed my appointment sheet to a woman sitting behind a plexiglass window. Signs taped to the window informed me that I would be seen according to my appointment time, not arrival time, and there was a whole page about what I could and couldn’t do with my cell phone. I never thought I’d hear myself say this, but there may be such a thing as too many words…

By this time, I was properly nervous. It was warm in the waiting room, but not as warm as I felt. It has been a long time since I’ve had to do anything that made me feel so uncomfortable as this whole experience was making me feel. I’m not sure that’s a good thing. It does, however, mean that my blood pressure is consistently low.

I had read far enough into the Declaration of Cell Phone usage, that I knew I was allowed to use mine in the waiting room, as long as I was quiet about it. I can be very quiet when I’m texting. So I sat there, texting away, and looking at pictures of my boys eating breakfast, playing games and generally distracting me.

About ten minutes after my appointment time a middle aged Asian lady opened a door and asked for “Yoolia Doofay.” I looked around at all the colorful (and mostly good-looking) African men in the waiting room and decided that she probably meant me. I followed as she trotted through to her office (it was an office and she had a window and everything, though I doubt if it opened).

“Stand here and raise your right hand,” she said. Then she asked me to swear that everything I was going to say was true. I did.

There was a flurry of papers and some box ticking and circling of answers on a form I had submitted months ago. I think I swore that I lived where I do, that I had never plotted to overthrow any government by violent means (which is true, though I did go on a protest march to the American consulate in Edinburgh once, but it was led by a monk, so I don’t think that counted), and that I wanted to fight for the US if need be. I don’t really want to fight for any reason, but I suppose if someone was charging towards my children, bayonets fixed, I’d have a hard time turning either cheeks, so, I went with the simplest answer.

Then, before she had even asked me any of the questions on the citizenship test for which I have been so diligently studying, Ms Yeh said, “I know you gonna pass the test, so can you come to the ceremony on Friday?”

Um, OK.

And then I had to tell her who is the commander in chief of the Army, the two main political parties in the US at the moment, the party of the current president, three of the original 13 colonies (and I only knew what that question was because I was looking at the sheet she was reading from. Her accent was a bit hard to decipher!), one other question that slips my mind and, yes, the name of one state that borders Mexico.

(I wondered if that was a trick question. Like, if you answer it correctly then they say, “Oh yeah? Is that where you slipped across the border with your Coyote? Was it? WAS IT?!!”)

But apparently saying “California” was enough, and I was in.

So I’m coming back at 2 pm on Friday to pledge allegiance and hand in my Green Card and be given a certificate and a little flag to wave.

I just hope they don’t play that cheesy “Proud To Be An American” song, they played when I came down with Kev.

My hopes are not high on that score, though.

So, how does it feel?

I’ve had mixed feelings about this process all along, which is why it’s taken me 15 years to get to this point.

I expected to feel kind of depressed about the whole thing.

I don’t.

Everyone at the naturalization office is so genuinely nice and friendly and smiley that it reminds me of everything I do like about Americans. And they seem tickled that you want to be one of them, and that they can give you this gift. Even if you have a bit more of a jaundiced opinion of nationalism and jingoism than the average American, it’s hard to resist the genuinely excited happy vibes you get from most people when you tell them you’re becoming a citizen. It’s cute. Americans, at their best, are really cute. Who am I to resist?