Monday, October 16, 2006

Becoming an American Citizen

Those of us born and raised in the United States rarely think about what it means to be an American citizen. Perhaps we contemplated it for a school assignment some time during our lives, but it's not something we think about from day to day. We are the lucky ones, and we don't even know it!

On Saturday I took Marcie with me to the nail salon. The woman helping me was new and so she asked all sorts of questions about Marcie. Here is how our exchange went:

Her: Wow. She is a big girl. Very healthy.
Me: Yes. We are very lucky. She is big. Good eater.
Her: Very lucky-- good eater. That's good. Is your husband a big man?
Me.: Kind of, but not too big. But he's actually not her biological father. She is adopted.
Her: Oh?!? Where from?
Me: China
Her: Oh, was that hard?
Me: Well, there was a lot of paperwork, but it actually went pretty smoothly.
Her: So does she get to become a citizen of the United States?
Me: Actually, she already is. When we passed through customs on September 1st and they stamped her visa, she became an American citizen automatically.
Her: Oh, she is VERY lucky. That is good!

Now, two things strike me about this conversation. First, this is the second or third (or maybe even fourth) time that someone has essentially asked me if Jason is Chinese. Once or twice I've gotten the comment, "She must look like her father." And I've said, "Actually, she does." I think this is a good thing. It means I live in a part of the world where no one bats an eye because a child does not look like her mother. And no one assumes I'm the babysitter because I don't look like my daughter (except the old Asian lady at the park, but I'm not counting her). I like that people don't make assumptions. I think this is a good thing.

Second, I never realized before the value of being an American citizen. It's pretty coveted. And for good reason. There are lots of perks and benefits to being American. Don't get me wrong, I'm fully aware of all the problems in the U.S.-- healthcare and poverty among them. But overall it's not a bad country in which to live. And of which to be a citizen.

Anyway, all this to let you know that Marcie's Certificate of Citizenship arrived in the mail today. I was tempted to scan it and post a photo, but I can't because, as the certificate points out: "It is punishable by U.S. law to copy, print or photograph this certificate, without lawful authority." So you'll just have to take my word that it's cool-looking. This means we can apply for Marcie's social security card and her passport-- and even get the ball rolling on her U.S. adoption, so we can get her an American birth certificate.

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