Quick link: No Memories are Contraband
Isn't she a beaut? Such a wee thing, but now one of our most prized possessions.
In a miraculous series of crazy-making and divinely-ordered events, exactly one year after applying and some 9.5 years after first moving to Ireland, Matt and I were sworn in as Irish citizens.
Of course, wouldn't you know it, as I queued at our prescribed time, and smiled oh so brightly at the nice lady at the desk with the lists and the packets and the lapel pins, my name wasn't found on the list. Of course it wasn't; I had bowed out of the last ceremony in lieu of hospital duty. When Ophelia intervened and the ceremony postponed, I happily - and somewhat fearfully - let them know I'd make this one. Oh yes. It was happening.
And then... no #36.
A kind woman in a purple pantsuit Hillary would've admired hastily printed off a declaration of fidelity for me to sign, saying, "You'll still take the oath, we'll just have to post your certificate first thing tomorrow. But you can take a picture of this if you want."
Oh yes. Imma need a photo.
She apologized profusely, handed me my Tricolour, and let me through, to take my oath, to pledge loyalty to the Irish State.
"Oh, and congratulations!" she shouted behind me.
And then I cried.
Retired High Court Judge Bryan McMahon, who presided over the oath, made it clear that though we are now fully Irish in every way, we need not forget the places we came from.
“When the State honours you today by granting you citizenship, it does not require that you forget the country you come from,” he said. “It does not ask you to erase your memories or your personal and unique history. Do not forget your own country, your own people, your own traditions. Such memories are not contraband."
I won't lie and say that didn't hit me right in the heart. One who leaves his or her passport country to live and work (or serve) in another can't help but feel torn in two. We are not fully part of either; we are both and we are neither. We have become a new thing.
At times along this journey, all manner of feelings have felt contraband, not to mention the anxieties that rise amid escalating tensions in both America and Europe right now. Love and anger, fear and hope exist right along each other, and the cultural and national securities with which we were raised take on new facets and shapes. Jagged edges are exposed by a different light; hidden gifts revealed from a new perspective.
“Bring with you your songs, your music, and your stories,” Judge McMahon told us. “Someday your children and your children’s children will ask you about their grandparents and will inquire about the old country. Do not deny them their legacy.”
Our old country is not so old, but our story is now told in American folk legends and Irish poetry, African-American hymns and rebel songs.
You can read the rest at VOX.
PS. My certificate came Wednesday, just as she promised.