We are blessed to have some pretty awesome friends in Connecticut.  Prime example – Nate’s Auntie Anne and Uncle Kent.  (From my Hawaiian roots, Auntie and Uncle are titles bestowed upon your child’s elders — and are also a sign of great respect.)  Anne was there right from the start.  She was the first person I told I was pregnant (we found out on her birthday!) and she was there for Nate’s birth.  And it was a good thing she came to the hospital with us.  Labor was 54 hours (and that’s 54 hours with contractions every 2-3 minutes, people….) before they finally gave up and got Nate out of there.

Nate’s Auntie Anne and Uncle Kent are pretty special people.  And they love Nate.  Here’s proof: they let Nate touch whatever he wants at their house.  Flat screen teevee?  Slap your little paw up there on that screen!  Gorgeous antique baby grand piano?  Play away, Nate!  The only thing Nate can’t manage to touch is their cat, Mordecai, who is a bit on the shy side.  Despite tipping the scales in the mid-twenties, making him basically the same weight as Nate, Mordy is scared of anything on two legs that’s fairly close to his height.  (Smart cat!)

Last week, Nate and I sat down and had a talk.  There was something that Nate needed to know about his Aunt and Uncle.  They are Canadian.  Nate said, “What does that mean?”  And I said, “Well, it means they say ‘drama’ and ‘about’ and ‘pasta’ differently than you and I.  It also means that they say ‘eh.’  A lot.”  I also explained that, in their 9 1/2 year stay here in the US, they’ve learned to say those words the American way.  And they kind of like saying the words that way.  So, they’ve decided to become American citizens.

Nate said, “What does that mean?”  And I said, “Auntie Anne and Uncle Kent can stay in the United States forever.  They’ll be right here to play with you.  All. The. Time.”

“That’s what that means, Mom? THAT’STOTALLYWICKEDAWESOME!”

I then explained that Auntie Anne and Uncle Kent worked really, really hard to become US citizens.  They had to file mountains of paperwork and they had to take a test.  All of this took the entire 9 1/2 years since they’ve been here.  They were going to become citizens at a ceremony in our State Capital.  I suggested that Nate and I be there to watch them get sworn in.

Well, if there’s ever an occasion that requires waving anything on a stick (or just holding a stick), Nate’s there.  He loves sticks.  Spoons, wands, pinwheels and, yes, American flags.  So we dug out Nate’s flag from last year’s 4th of July bicycle, tricycle and baby doll carriage parade and went to Anne and Kent’s house before the ceremony.

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The swearing in was scheduled for 2:30PM, the last one of the day.  You can’t send a toddler to an event without filling his belly, so Nate had a cinnamon raisin bagel with peanut butter, an apple, and two strawberries from Aunt Anne’s fridge.  While sitting at Aunt Anne’s big boy table, Nate was fascinated with seeing his feet through the clear glass table.  Eventually, Nate put one foot on the table just to prove it was really his.  And he got the table really, really fingerprinted with peanut butter goo.  (Sorry, Anne….)

Here’s the “before” photo.  Don’t Anne and Kent look soooo Canadian?

Then we drove to the Capital.  It was a long drive, long enough for Nate to take a siesta to digest his lunch.  Nate’s been on a “I don’t need no stinkin’ nap” kick at home lately so I was relieved.  Still clutching his American flag, I was optimistic that Nate would take his normal 2 to 2 1/2 hour nap, which would allow for a drama-free welcome of our dear friends to our great country.  I left the flag in the car and plunked him into our Ergo baby carrier.  Off to the courthouse we went.

I take my citizenship to this country very much for granted.  It’s a given.  I didn’t have to work for it at all.  But Anne and Kent did.  They came to the swearing in armed with a briefcase filled with papers plus a three-inch binder packed with stuff.  I thought they were overdoing it a bit — but every single person in that room had done the same thing.  Seems this process is a bit bureaucratic….  Anyhow, because I take it for granted, I was excited to watch 64 people become newly minted citizens of the US of A.  The room was filled with people from every culture and every country imaginable.  And there were lots of little ones, too.  If you become naturalized before your children turn 18, they, too, become American citizens.  So it was pretty neat to see entire families go through this ceremony together.

Whereas Anne and Kent had briefcases and binders, I had baby paraphernalia.  An umbrella stroller, a diaper bag, Nate strapped to my chest in an Ergo carrier, plus our three coats.  Since I had Nate with me, the four of us got to go through an expedited security lane.  Nate and I whizzed through.  I looked back and saw Uncle Kent madly whacking the stroller in an attempt to fold it.   Once we made it through security, we were ushered into a courtroom, where I figured the ceremony was going to take place.  The room was packed and Nate was still blissfully asleep.  We sat and waited and waited in that room for a good, long time.  Then, some official looking person came in and said that we could all go in the other courtroom where the ceremony was to take place.

In the hustle and bustle of getting out of the holding room and moving into the ceremony room, we were separated.  Anne and Kent were seated inside of the courtroom, near the area where witnesses would take the stand.  Nate and I got a seat right by the door.  I had the stroller and all of our coats.  Anne?  She had my diaper bag.

Then they got right down to business.  A guy got up and explained what was going to happen and how it all worked.  First, you get called up to hand in your green card and this piece of paper that showed you were supposed to be there.  Then you were to take two books plus a printout of the Pledge of Allegiance.  Then this lady sat in the middle of the room and would whack a stamp, ever so slowly and perfectly, on each of the 64 naturalization certificates.  Then someone from the Department of State would come in and explained how you apply for a passport.  Then two women from the Registrar’s office came in and would register everyone to vote (because that’s a right we citizens have!).  Then a judge would come in, swear everyone in, most likely deem today a special event so we could take photographs (he did), swear everyone in, recite the Pledge of Allegiance, and then everyone would graduate into citizenship.

At the time of the explanation, Nate was asleep.  As soon as they started calling names to hand in green cards, Nate woke up.  And he was up.  There was no cooing or rocking him back to sleep.  He demanded to know why he was in an Ergo, why he was in Federal court, and why random names were being hollered out.  That’s right.  As soon as the ceremony we came to witness started, Nate got his groove on.  We spent the majority of the time out in the hallway, running around in circles, bumming a pen off the Registrar ladies so that Nate would have a wand, and trying to figure out how to get my coveted diaper bag back from Auntie Anne.  Nate was good-natured but, as any toddler is wont to be, he was fussy.  There were no toys.  He didn’t understand why we were there.  And he was slightly vocal about it.  Way to be vocal at an inappropriate time, Nate….

Here’s the problem: they made no bones about it that we were in Federal Court.  There was a seriousness about the day and a formality about it.  I didn’t know if I could waltz right up to the witness box and take back my diaper bag.  After exhausting all my options, I asked an Officer of the Court, who had taken a shine to Nate, if I could get my diaper bag.  He said it was fine.  Hallelujah! I got it and fished out a snack cup of goldfish crackers.  This will work.  Nate loves parmesan goldfish crackers!  He ate three before he made commentary.  Three.  My heart sank.  We were going over one hour now, with no appearance of the judge in sight.  Dear Judge, please.  Please hurry it up!

Finally, the guts of it all was about to begin.  The Officer of the Court hollered that you either needed to be in or out of the room.  Two little ones were fussing loudly outside of the room; they got locked out with their dad, which sadly means they missed seeing their mom become a citizen.  Nate?  He was fussing inside the room.  We were right by the door, next to the Officer.  The “o-yay o-yay o-yay” chant started and a very sweet, elderly judge appeared.  It was at this point that Nate began forcibly throwing goldfish on the floor.  One by one, he pulled them out of his snack cup and pitched them on the ground.  Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I’d say to my child in a hushed tone, “Please stop throwing goldfish in Federal Court!!!

Then Nate got loud–so loud that I had to put my hand over his mouth a few times.  He was squirmy and hot (it was hot in that room) and wanted out.  I whispered to the Officer if we could duck out.  Guess what, people?  Officers of the Court can’t speak to you when court is in session.  So there we sat (because you have to stay seated when court is in session) right by the door, with me whispering into Nate’s ear, “For the love of all things good, please be quiet and doodle with your I’m a Voter! pen in this Tonka Truck coloring book.  Please!

Despite juggling Nate and praying that he’d be quiet, I did feel a bit of national pride.  Here were 64 people joining our ranks because they were looking for something better from whence they came.  More opportunity, better education–something.  And they worked really, really hard to get here.  And Nate and I did nothing.  And yet we benefit from being here every single day.

Nate and I stood to recite the Pledge of Allegiance–Nate’s first time–and then people began to get their naturalization certificates.  There was no rhyme or reason to the order.  A’s were followed by Z’s which were followed by P’s and we had  no clue when Anne and Kent would be called up to get theirs.  At this point, Nate was going bonkers.  I let Nate walk around a bit because the ceremony had become less formalized.

When you receive your naturalization certificate, the judge gives you a wee American flag to wave.  A lovely woman across from us had received her certificate.  Nate made a bee-line for her.  Well, not the lady. Her flag. Nate wanted her flag in the worst way.  Stranger Danger, be damned–Nate went right up and snatched it out of her hand.  She kindly said Nate could have it.  I grabbed it from Nate, gave it back to the lady and said, “Are you crazy?  You earned that flag!  Keep your flag!

The courtroom started to empty out and Anne and Kent were still stranded up in the courtroom, certificate-less.  Finally, more than 1 1/2 hours after coming into court, Anne and Kent’s names were hollered.  Nate and I ran up to the front of the room and snapped this shot of our newly minted Americans!  (They look different, don’t they?)  In true Auntie fashion, Anne promptly gave her flag to Nate.

This weekend, to welcome them in style, we threw Anne and Kent a “Welcome to America!” party.  We invited Nate’s Uncle Daniel and Uncle David.  (We had more friends to invite but our dining room table can only fit six + Nate’s highchair.)

On the menu was a salad with watermelon, strawberries, blueberries, white grapes, and parmesan reggiano.  (Red, white, and blue!)  For lunch, chili with rice or cornbread (or both).  And for dessert, we got a cake from Costco that serves 48.  Because nothing says America more than grossly oversized and ridiculously affordable food products.

It was a real fun affair.  (If you look real close at the bottom left of the photo, you’ll see Nate’s foot.)

We are so very, very happy to officially welcome our newest Americans–Auntie Anne and Uncle Kent–to our country!

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