blogitto ergo sum

May 21, 2014

#219 – home is

Filed under: life matters — yael [ya-el] wagner @ 23:43
Tags: , , ,

Tomorrow, I’ll get sworn in. Sounds grand, doesn’t it? I won’t take over any government office, nor assume any authority or power.  I’ll become an American citizen, taking the oath, pledging my allegiance to this contradiction-rich country that has been my home since 1999.

I have a virtual slide show running in my head.  Israel’s Holocaust Memorial Day, Israel’s Memorial Day, and Israel’s Independence Day came and left only a couple of weeks ago.  Even without attending any ceremony, without raising any flag, lighting any candle, without pigging out over too much meat, without wearing the compulsory “uniform” of blue & white on memorial day, they still felt more real to me than Memorial Day, which is a weekend away.

Identity is a never-ending process

This citizenship wasn’t an easy or a trivial decision. I qualified to apply for an American citizenship in 2007, and yet applied only during last year’s Thanksgiving, starting a process that on May 22nd will end with my pledge of allegiance to the United States of America.

What I was doing, thinking since 2007? I wasn’t ready.  As it turns out, citizenship means [to me] more than a passport and taxes.  It’s not even where I live.  Israel, Canada, China, US – all are counties in which I’ve enjoyed living, am always happy to go back, go shopping, eating, sightseeing…  This is not what defines home though.  Home is the place that regardless where I am in the world, I have a piece of it with me, within me, as part of my identity.  And it was a long process before the US landed a piece of me.

On my last trip to Israel, about four months ago, I felt it.  At first, it was the realization that I was not an outsider, nor was I an insider.  Then the insight hit me.  This was home, here I have lots of past and identity ties that define me, family, friends that dig me with no need for subtitles…  and yes, I know the language, culture.  Israel definitely feels like home, a place where I don’t need a GPS too often, nor freak out faced with the visit’s customary, almost mandatory, Tel Aviv parking ticket.  But…  too often I found myself  looking at things, observing rather than engaging.

The only times when everything felt right, when and where I knew who I am, why I am, were those cherished Saturday mornings spend with Sharon & Shlomi at the beach.  Wiggling my toes in the sand, sipping Israeli instant 20140125coffee [with no complaints about its quality],munching on beigaleh [pretzels], and talking, arguing, sharing without barriers.  I am yael, I was born and grew up in pardes hana of which I have not too many fond memories, and these are my people.  They know me now, they knew me almost always, and they have the right to ask about the times when that they didn’t.

Long time ago, I learned that I really know very little about the future. But yesterday, and five years ago, and five years to go, with my second language being my first, this is where home is, this is where my life, association, and growing roots are.

And while this have been the case for so long, in less than 12 hours I’ll publicly commit to it.  And mean it too.

How did “I don’t know, I don’t feel as if I need it, why bother” change into spending a big chunk of Thanksgiving week tracking all my international trips, as the N-400 form requires.  Slowly.

That was only the beginning.  I had to go in, give my fingerprints and show my face TWICE.  Slicing my forefinger a couple of days before the first “intake,” disqualified the finger from getting printed.  Of course, nothing in the letter and documentation provided tells you about it before hand.

It went like this:

Early morning, driving to the INS office in Santa Clara, I realize, half way there, that I forgot the green card.  U-turn later I’m rushing home, getting the card, rush back only to be told that

  1. I didn’t need the green card, the letter invitation and my driver’s license would have been enough.
  2. They can’t process my fingers today, not even the middle one, since I have a cut that distorts the image of that  finger.

It took a snail mail exchanges, a phone call, and another ill-timed appointment, before they admitted that I could just walk in and share my precious fingers with them.

You get a stamp on the invitation letter, a booklet and a CD with 100 Q&As about US history, civic system, government system…  go learn.

And then you are summoned for THE INTERVIEW, which deserves a chapter all on its own.

And in the morning there’ll be a ceremony.  My nails are ready.  And I am too.



  1. Would love to be there for that ceremony – does this mean duel citizenship now? It sounds like quite a journey.

    Comment by Pat — May 22, 2014 @ 07:24 | Reply

  2. Your description of the process of identifying home captivates me. It’s taken me 60 years to find home in an unlikely corner of the world and it doesn’t have anything to do with people. My people are in America. But Bali is home. I feel it on a cellular level. The pulsing energy of this island is in sync with my heartbeat. How do you explain something like this? I’ve tried, but you’ve succeeded. Thank you for your insightful post.

    Comment by writingforselfdiscovery — May 22, 2014 @ 15:54 | Reply

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