celebrating America!8:09 AM
^she LOVED these clogs!^
^I'm sorry but years later all I can think about is THIS when I see this^
^you guys this was LEGIT hard, I almost died!!^
^ papa bear's sweet birthday gift that I'm obsessed with^
^this kid absolutely adores animals^
^confession: I thought this was a bald eagle initially (in other news I'm dumb)^
Last Thursday we packed up the car and headed for Staunton to have some fourth of July fun with our almost seventh month old. It was a gorgeous day - blue skies and green hills and a very, very warm sun shining down on all of us. As we drove past dozens of flags gallantly flopping in the wind "America the Beautiful" came on the radio and my mind was instantly transported back to an equally hot summer over six years ago... My mind went back to the day of my naturalization ceremony. It was an incredibly special, memorable and emotional day and I was so glad that papa bear was there to share it with me. We had just been dating over a year when he joined me and about three dozen other individuals to watch us become Americans. We were given flags and certificates, we sang God Bless America and we all cried, in fact I'm not sure there was a dry eye in the room. People were dressed up to the nines, little girls in frilly dresses with bows in their hair, some of them brought their entire family with them and everyone was taking photos. It took papa bear years to truly understand why a moment like this could be so emotional for so many people (you would have thought somebody was getting married!) and in order to understand you have to start at the beginning.
For many complex reasons that would take far too long to explain America became "the only answer" for our family in 1998. My parents had watched so many people try and fail to emigrate to the US. When they began the process they had no idea how it was going to turn out, they had no idea what their future and their children's futures would look like. But one bitterly cold November morning they, along with close to a hundred other Russians, stood in line at the American Embassy for five hours waiting to submit their documents. Mum and dad would take turns running to their car to warm up their feet (the temperatures had hit well below zero by that time). They submitted the paperwork and they drove home - anxious, cold and tired. A few weeks later they returned to Moscow to find out whether or not they had been approved and to their great shock and awe... they were granted visas. Mum has told and retold the story of how visas in hand her and dad went straight to McDonalds (because that's where you went to "celebrate" in Russia at the time) and how they were choking back tears as they took bites out of their Big Macs. That was the beginning...
And then almost ten years, thousands of pages of forms, dozens of interviews, fingerprints, tests and trips to INS offices later we were able to place our right hand on our chests and declare our undying love for America!
And I truly do love this country. I have a lot of relatives who still live all over Eastern Europe, some my age and some my parent's age and they are daily reminders of the blessings that I have as an American. Of course my biggest blessing was meeting my husband, something that would have never happened had we continued to live in Russia. But there are other big and small things that affect my life on a daily basis. So many times a day I look at my life and I just feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Especially now that I'm a mother I've become even more aware of just how good I have it in this country. I never thought I would have a life like this, I never thought I would have the kind of opportunities that I have, I just never thought it could be like this...
America doesn't get everything right every time but I believe it's the best we've got and I sure am proud to call myself an American!