America, land of opportunity/land of the free has both captivated and inspired world travelers like me for many generations; be it past, present or future. It remains the most charitable country on the planet with empathetic hearts and pocketbooks freely open in giving to those who are less fortunate. It is just the American way and one of the main reasons why I LOVE THIS COUNTRY! Whether confronting natural disasters such as tornadoes or being generous with gofundme pages, the outpouring never ceases to amaze me.
Please believe me when I tell you, that this world has so many people who dwell in a permanent rut of desolation, despair, and hopelessness and we are so fortunate to live here in the US. The path of gratitude will always lead you back to the Path2Empathy as living the American Dream provides us all with so very much to be grateful for.
My Path2America began while growing up as a young girl in my homeland city of Dublin, Ireland. Mesmerized by the idea of living in the US someday, I faithfully watched American TV shows from the 1970s. My dad and I became besotted with shows like The Brady Bunch, The Waltons, Little House On The Prairie and the list goes on. We were both entranced with how affectionate the Yanks (that's what we call you guys in Europe...BTW) were so often professing their emotions with the words, “I love you”. Most Europeans are not so demonstrative with their feelings (except of course the countries of the Mediterranean) so it was refreshing for us Northern Europeans, to say the least.
For twelve years, from 1981 to 1993, I lived in six European countries while adjusting (not always successfully I might add) to the variety of cultures, customs, and inhabitants of each nation. In all of those separate locations, there was always kindness and open hearts to be found during my dark days or times of need, but I never lost my desire to live in the USA.
In October of 1993, along with my beloved future husband and a ninety-day visa, we drove to the INS Offices (now known as ICE) in southern California and began the 5-year process of becoming a US citizen. Once inside, the entire space was packed with long lines in every direction of immigrants like myself. I had never seen so many immigrants in one place! The paperwork, photos, forms, and a multitude of signings became a very lengthy process with many return visits back to the lines, the same people, in that familiar building. Patience became a virtue. Within a month or two, my Green Card arrived in the mail (although it is not green at all) and I was soon able to find work and happily blended into the American way of life.
I moved to Colorado Springs in the summer of 1995, and in order to continue the process I followed up with visits and more paperwork at the INS Office in Denver. In year four, I was advised to study 100 questions/answers on US History and Civics and did so in a diligent manner each and every day. A few months later, I was to be tested at the ICE Office while answering a total of 13 questions out of 100 and needed to get a minimum of seven correct. I was so nervous as the very serious-looking male official began asking the questions but knew my subject so well that I soon relaxed. To my relief, within a few short minutes, I had already accurately answered the very first seven questions so that there was no need to go further. Then, there was a brief oral and written exam to ensure that I could correctly comprehend/converse in English. The paperwork, lines, studying, and signing was finally over! Next to come was the date of the Swearing In Ceremony; we were given the date for a few months later and waited with sweet anticipation…
An official letter soon arrived in the mail stipulating that the ceremony would be taking place promptly at nine in the morning on Saturday, September 26th, 1998. Arriving about an hour early (just to be safe), I took my place in the second row along with about a hundred other future citizens from all corners of the world. As we found our seats, we were each handed a small American flag and a congratulatory word.
The ceremony soon began as we all began to answer in unison while asked whether we would pledge allegiance to the flag and defend our new native land. Each and every answer was a resounding “YES!” The national anthem played as we all proudly sang, “O say can you see, by the dawns early light...and the home of the BRAVE.” My home. We were pronounced to be US CITIZENS and the room erupted into applause while excited, joyful, hugs were given all around the room. We made it!!!
This day is precious to me, and with so much tension in the world we need to remember, we are all human, we all have hopes and dreams no matter the color of our skin or where we come from. This great country was founded on these principles: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (and women) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” -Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776
As I exited that building in September of 1998, my toddler son asked: “You American now Mommy?” With tears of joy streaming down my cheeks, I gratefully responded, “Yes honey, I SURE AM!!!”
Happy 4th of July everyone!
Ann Doolan-Fox- US Citizen, Author, Wife, Mother to Semi-Independent 21 Year-Old, and Cat Lover