“ I need to ask you if you fully appreciate ...” or words to that effect kept floating through my mind when I saw a recent prompt. Too many other emotions floated then for me to pretend to write a piece.
I had had the temerity to fall in love with an Englishman. When he asked me to marry him, I said yes. I thought what mattered was the being in love, the loving, the willingness to share a life. Silly, silly me.
Here, just before we married, we had to go to the British Embassy in New York. I don’t remember any longer whether it was to prove that they should allow me in or risk losing him to America. Perhaps it was to stamp my passport and allow me limitless entry.
How do you stand in an office and prove to someone that you love. British Embassy. I expect there was tea. Before we left, we, our love, had won approval. I had my stamp.
Could he have come here. No. He had no love for my country. Later I wondered if he’d had love for .... I didn’t see that then.
More importantly than anything else, he had two little girls. We needed to be there.
He ran a small coach company. In England he could afford to run it. Here, in the States, it would be completely out of reach. So you give up all you have and all you know. It doesn’t feel like giving up despite what others say. You do it because home is only where your heart is and mine was there with him.
Five years on - watersheds. So many all at once. My mother’s death. My father’s health. A nursing home found. A family home gone.
Just home from all of this and receiving the call about my father’s leg, I learned of one more thing over which I had no control. Immigration laws were being changed in the UK. No more was said. Could be far-reaching. Could be anything. No one seemed to know.
So much loss brought thought of life. Hope of life. What if .... What if ... there should be a child. What if ... there should be a war. Who could stay and who must go. Is there only loss.
One opening was applying for British citizenship. Many there have dual citizenship. My husband saw no need of fuss. I don’t remember step by step. Something about 31 December that year. 1987. I remember the solicitor’s office, the solicitor who advised my husband not to add my name to the ... whatever it was ... of the house. What if it didn’t last ....
At some point I pledged an oath to the Queen. That must have been after she had accepted me.
Somehow I learned, perhaps from the solicitor, that I needed to notify my embassy. So to London. Good thing my husband, someone, came with me. Pages and pages of forms to fill out. Most American wives who were facing the same dilemma were doing exactly the same thing. The embassy people knew all of this. Still.
Fill the forms. Hand them in. Wait. Someone will need to speak with you.
When he came, we didn’t go inside to an office or a room. There wasn’t any tea. He called me to an unused part of the counter, looked across it and spoke to me.
“Do you fully appreciate that if you move forward with this application for British citizenship, whatever your reason may be, that you may jeopardize, risk losing, your American citizenship. We can give you no advice. We simply must verify that you have been informed and completely understand. Do you.”
Quite honestly, regardless of my personal emotional state, I remember losing any sense of who I was, or who I had until that moment, believed myself to be. I had never imagined then returning to the States, but this ... this .... I had to stand there, on my own, look this man straight in the eye and tell him ... yes. I understood I was risking the loss of my American citizenship. Yes. Would you not sacrifice anything if there were the slightest chance that one day even as a clock ticked by that you might have a child ... in this country you had chosen ... in this country that you loved. Would you allow anything to one day possibly tear you away .... Yes. I understood.
I lost my father that next month. He didn’t live long enough for me to find a way to bring him closer or to know whether or not I could. Would Medicare follow him. Would Social Security or his pension. How did any of that work back then.
I never told him what I’d done. I carried his hat and the folded flag back with me.
All the world was spinning. Much limbo. And then the wait. Two years.
At some point the Queen accepted me.
Then there came a letter from the US Embassy. The letter. I think I had been called back not long before to fill out a thousand pages more. Everyone had smiled at me. They all knew what I was doing and why. I and so many others.
I unfolded the letter and began to read. “We are (happy? relieved? glad? some disarming word)... you have lost your US citizenship .... Sincerely ....”
Thanks to filing my parents’ last income tax returns I had learned the Embassy’s number by heart. “Oh!!!!” they said. “Not!!!!” “There should have been a “not!” “We’ll send a corrected copy and we are so sorry ....”
Most. Least. I dared to fall in love. And when the love died, I dared to come back where no one knew what to do with me. Home. Not where I thought it might be. Not even now. I seem to have imagined home.
Most often I imagine home by the sea, by a sea that loves me, by a sea that never doubts me, by a sea that calls my name. A sea that has no boundary, just tides and waves, ebbs and flows, storms and calm. My sea. Life sea. Home.