Today was a pretty big day over here for the Truffles family. I became the 4th Truffle to have two nationalities, but the first Truffle to become an American.
Citizenship was never something I had ever really considered. When I first moved to America it was for three months. I was a transfer student doing a teaching degree. I lived in an apartment in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, with two librarians, in a neighborhood full of people in their young twenties who had migrated to NYC to live out dreams. Even once I’d decided to stay in America a little longer, and complete my degree, I still thought one day I’d pack up my ever growing collection of belongings and head back home. I loved America, but it didn’t seem like a long term plan.
In 2012 the goal of moving home changed quite dramatically when my New Yorker boyfriend proposed. Suddenly the new plan was to stay in New York, and work as a teacher there. I finished my degree, got a work permit, and a job teaching. The next year the boyfriend turned into a husband, and the work permit turned into green card, but I still had not particular longing to “become” American. People would always ask me when I was going to apply for citizenship, but I just didn’t really see any need. I couldn’t vote, but aside from that I was living and working as if I was American anyway. I paid my taxes, drank bud light, and held my sparkler like the bets of them on the 4th of July.
Life changed again in 2016 when J decided to dramatically change careers and become a pilot in the navy. We had two little boys, a tiny apartment on Long Island, and I had a spectacularly crazy 5th grade teaching job in Brooklyn. I didn’t really want to move. I had moved to America to live in New York, but I had stayed in America because of my new family. So with much trepidation we packed everything up and moved to Florida, then shortly after that to Texas, then after that Oklahoma.
It wasn’t until we actually left NY that I realized that America is so incredibly disparate. In NY there are tens of thousands of British people. There are tea shops, and places to buy skips and quavers. Manhattan has a whole neighborhood called Little Britain. Flights from NYC to London leave 18 times a day, and is such a popular route it’s incredibly affordable. I never felt homesick, because so much of home was readily available to me. This ended when we landed in Florida. Suddenly going home required multiple airport changes and a pretty massive price hike. Suddenly my accent was a talking point and I started to crave blending in.
Then something happened that made me think that holding out on becoming a citizen was a mistake. I was flying from London to Chicago, then on home to Texas, and I got detained by immigration. I’d been detained once before, in 2015 in NY when I’d flown home for a weekend for my goddaughters christening. That time I’d been alone, and all I had to do was call my principal to say I had been detained and wouldn’t be making it into work. I was held for an hour. Then let go with no explanation. The detention room was pleasant, a couple of other folks there, but quiet and didn’t appear high stress, I managed it fine. In Chicago it was a different story. I was traveling with all two kids, and I had a connecting flight to make. This time the room wasn’t pleasant. We were placed in a small very hot room with a lot of other people. These others were visibly distressed. Some were crying. From what I could gather from one family, the wife was american but the husband didn’t have a visa and was being sent back, she was bawling. The immigration officers were ignoring us all and stacking bottled water for themselves (we were not allowed a drink, even though I asked) My kids were tired, I was tired. I was getting really panicked about making our next flight. I tried to speak to someone. I was actually blanked. I tried just talking at him. I told him my boys had american passports, and that I had a green card. This was pointless to share, they’d confiscated my green card and passport for inspection, so he knew I had one. Then just when it was getting dire they called my name and told me to go. No explanation. I started looking into becoming a citizen the next day.
So here I am. At the end my first day as an American, and actually it feels pretty good. I wasn’t sure if I’d notice a difference, and I guess on the surface nothing has changed. I feel lighter though. I’m thrilled to never to have to go to immigration again (or write them another check!) I’m looking forward to registering to vote, and applying for my passport. But more than anything I’m excited that my family is “whole” now, and for the future as an American citizen, in the country that is now officially forever my home.