I’ve been in a weird mood lately. Although I continue to write and create each day, somehow I’ve not felt like any of my recent pieces are fit for blogging. And when I stop blogging, I start chastising and nagging myself, and soon my inner Judge is out yelling at me and making me miserable. So, it was in this mood that I sat at my dinning room table yesterday and wrote about the idea and notion of Americana. In light of it having been Memorial Day, I wrote and wrote about all the things, ideas and people I think of when I hear the word Americana. Somehow, though, the day wore on without my having the time to sit down and transfer my writing into an actual blog post. And I went to bed feeling even more discouraged than ever.
Today began with a hectic and early morning rush to work. Have I mentioned work lately? While I consider myself a creative and free-spirited blogger and an aspiring writer, I actually have a day job. I am an attorney in real life. And I practice immigration law.
Anyway, so here I was rushing to get to downtown for an early morning appearance. I was representing someone at his citizenship interview. As I have done countless other times for the last ten years, I got into my familiar routine, timing everything down to the minute in order to meet my client at 8:15 am. When we finally met, I could tell that he’s so very nervous. Having done this job for a decade, I have become a very good judge of character. Some clients show up confident, even a little cocky at times, ready to plow through the process and ace their test. Others come, completely awe stricken by the importance and weight of what they’re about to do. Their nerves get the best of them. Their voice shakes and their hands tremble. So much is at stake and they know it. This morning’s client was one the latter.
He was a small man, his English lacking a bit. He seemed so shy and ever so nervous. We shook hands and I tried to calm his frazzled nerves down by going through my normal recitation of how the interview would likely go. And I tapped him gently on the shoulder, reassuring him that he was going to be okay. He nodded and smiled absent-mindedly at me, out of politeness. I could tell that my schpill did little to relax him.
At the interview, he sounded uncertain and small at times. He hesitantly answered the interviewer’s questions and did his best to speak clearly and effectively. The interviewer asked him a series of routine questions which were randomly picked from a set of predetermined possibilities. He needed to answer six correctly. He was doing well and I was watching him, trying to will some serenity into his soul as he got more and more nervous, despite doing such a great job answering the questions correctly. Finally, the interviewer asked what was one the most important things he was going to do as a U.S. citizen. This slight shy man, who had been so nervous that he had bit his lip hard enough that it was now bleeding, suddenly lit up, sat up tall and said with a clear and strong accented voice, “to be loyal to the United States”.
And with that answer, he passed the test.
The interviewer informed him that he had passed the test and his case would be recommended for approval. And just then all the nervousness melted away, all the weight lifted off his shoulders and his face. He came to life in that instance, his face expressing happiness, joy, pride and relief. The biggest smile appeared of his face and he finally stopped biting the heck out of his lip.
In my practice, I’ve handled hundreds (if not thousands) of citizenship cases. And the utter joy I see on the faces of my clients the moment they realize they’re going to become American citizens is one of the most precious gifts I’ve ever been given as a lawyer and as a human being. That’s because I myself have been where my clients sit, have felt the joy they feel and have had the experience of being filled with that indescribable sense of hope and pride apparent on their faces. Today, my client’s happiness and pride actually brought a tear or two to my eyes. It’s nice to know years of practice have not made me jaded and unable to feel what I felt today.
So from now on, when I think of the idea of Americana, I’ll think of the ideals, the accomplishments and the personalities I’ve always thought of. But, I’ll also think of my nervous, shy, worried client who left beaming from the mere notion of becoming an American citizen and being loyal to the United States. If that’s not the embodiment of Americana, I don’t know what is.