Friday, February 27, 2009

Model Citizen

It's the white man's burden
And it weighs a ton
I'm a family man
Model citizen"
Warren Zevon

The Czarina and I winged our way to St. Louis mid-week for an auspicious occasion. The Boy became a citizen of these United States. God knows this took long enough. He's lived in the U.S.A. for more than 11 years. It took his mother filling out all the necessary paperwork to turn this refugee from Riga, Latvia into a good member in standing of the Red, White, and Blue.

The Boy traveled by train from his new home of Springfield, Illinois. He's had a tough four months. He was a victim of this recession (ha, it's a depression, let's not kid ourselves) and lost a really good job with a TV station in Indianapolis. He was lucky to land another gig in less than a month just a couple of hundred miles to the west.

We all traveled by rental car to Terre Haute, Indiana. Oddly enough, despite doing all of his interviews while in Indianapolis, the Boy's naturalization ceremony was scheduled in Terre Haute. The only thing I know about the place is that it's home to the Indiana State Sycamores (which gave us Larry Bird) and the NCAA Cross Country Championships.

Unfortunately we got a little confused about the whole time change thing going from Central to Eastern zones and managed to arrive in front of the federal courthouse about five minutes late. I figured, despite a lot of recrimination going on in the rental car, that it would all be fine. While the Czarina and the Boy made the dash for the ceremony. I parked somewhere on the ISU campus across the street.

The courthouse was a beautiful example of WPA era architecture. When I made it to the ceremony, it was inside a gorgeous courtroom which sported a massive mural behind the judge's bench along with some beautiful art deco trimmings. The place was packed. Turned out we weren't late. In fact, one of the new citizens showed up about an hour after we did!

We actually became a part of history as this was the first naturalization ceremony in the history of Terre Haute. It was held on the anniversary of the opening of the grand old courthouse in 1935. A new one is being built and the university will take over the building. Federal Judge Craig McKee did a splendid job hosting the whole affair which ended up running more than 90 minutes. In all 55 people including the Boy raised their right hands and swore their allegiance to this great country. The Czarina, who herself became a citizen five years ago, was beaming with pride.

It was a very satisfying experience. It wasn't nearly as emotional for me as when the Czarina took her oath. That was in Tampa and more of a cattle call with more than 300 participants but it was a stirring ocassion nevertheless.

The drive back to St. Louis was a quiet one. The Czarina and the Boy both crashed out while I navigated I-70 the 180 or so miles back to our hotel. Because they are both ethnic Russians, the Latvian government never recognized them as citizens of that country, even though they were both born in Riga. As my wife used to say before becoming an American, she was a citizen of the world. As for me, I'm just proud to be a citizen of the greatest country on earth.

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