In a few hours, my husband will wake up before dawn, lace up his running shoes, pin on his number, and join 60,000 other people in running the largest 10k in the world.
My girls and I will also get up early, but we’ll be packing our camping chairs and a cooler and dusting off the signs we made five years ago for his second race. “Go Go Daddy-O” says one of the signs. We’ll meet friends and camp out for several hours just watching the throngs of humanity go by, and by, and by. It’s quite an amazing sight. We’ll scan the faces for “Daddy-O,” and suddenly he apparates, like Harry Potter, almost right in front of us. We’ll take a quick photograph and get a sweaty hug and he’ll be on his way again.
My husband is an immigrant. He is also a US citizen. Because he’s white and English is his first (and only) language, he’s the type that most people make exceptions for in their minds. He’s ‘desirable.’ Most Americans think of English people as bringing up the place. On the day he became a US citizen, he was one face in a sea of people from around the world who took the oath. It’s quite an amazing sight.
I’m reminded of my father’s grandmother, who got on a boat bound for America with her family when she was 11. They were on the boat for many weeks. Her small brother fell ill on the journey and when they finally reached US soil, he was refused entry. He and their mother, my great-great grandmother, had to get back on the boat and return to Norway. My great-grandmother became the ‘mother’ of the family, as the oldest daughter, for several years until her brother and their mother were able to return and the family be reunited. It was a hard life, clearing stumps after the logging companies had come through, and starting a farm from scratch in a new country.
Immigrants today go through so much to come to America. Becoming a citizen was a long, expensive process for my husband. I can’t imagine how difficult it was for those people from Burkina Faso, Serbia, Jamaica, Colombia, Cambodia that we shared that day with at the immigration office. Learning the language, navigating the requirements, studying for the test; it seems so overwhelming. But our country offers them something that makes it worth the sacrifice.
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”