A year ago today Steve Schalchlin's best friend, Richard (Dickie) Remley died. When he was going through his last crisis, a bunch of us from The Last Session group wore these "Dickie Forever" buttons. The words around the center say "We will always be connected to each other," which comes from Steve's song, "Connected."
One of these buttons was buried in Forest Lawn with Dickie.
Your order, sir?
WHAT I'M READING
When Peggy was here, we listened to a lot of John Denver music (which I don't think Steve has forgiven me for). I was so intrigued by so many of his lyrics that I wanted to read the story behind them, so borrowed the book from her.
That's it for today!
YANKEE DOODLE DANDY
25 January 2001
There should have been flags.
Where were the flags?
I always imagined that people would come to a ceremony for new citizens dressed to the nines and waving little American flags. Instead people were dressed casually to slovenly (with a few "business looks" here and there), and there wasnt a single flag to be seen anywhere.
We had come to San Jose to bring full circle a drama that started twenty years ago, on a dark and stormy night, when I knocked on the door of a motel in Oakland and found myself staring at the tear stained face of Sonia Percequillo, of Sao Paulo, Brasil. I've told Sonias story here before--how she came to live with us, fell in love with Charlie, lost him when she returned to Brasil, found him when she came back, married him and has been with him now for some 15 years.
Today Sonia became a U.S. citizen. We wouldnt have missed the ceremony for anything.
We groaned a bit when we learned that Sonia had to present herself to the Civic Auditorium at 7:30 a.m. Its a 2 hour drive from here to there, when there is no traffic. Its also one of the worst commutes in northern California and I knew that traffic at that hour of the morning would be horrendous.
So we left here at 4:30 a.m. Since Im usually awake at that hour, I drove and let Walt sleep in the back. It took us about an hour and a half to get from here to the sign that said we were 26 miles from San Jose. Thats when the tail lights started appearing. It took us another hour to get from that sign to San Jose itself. And there were pockets where I could get up to 30 mph, so it wasnt really all that bad. I had great sympathy for people who make the commute every day.
We stopped at McDonalds for breakfast and then tried to find a place to park. All the close lots were full and the "reasonable walk" lot was only 75 cents per 20 minutes, with a $12 maximum. San Jose at San Francisco prices (except I think San Francisco is higher than that.)
We got in line with a group of soon-to-be citizens moving slowly toward the door of the auditorium. I wondered how we would find Sonia and Charlie and their kids in the crowd, but I should have realized that Sonia would take her last opportunity to operate on "Brasilian time" and arrive late--as we were entering the building, they were just arriving, so we hooked up immediately.
She went to her seat on the floor of the arena and we went up to the gallery. It was 8 a.m. and we learned that the judge was due at 9. While we were waiting there were instructions by a guy from INS on how to fill out voter registration forms and a pep talk from someone from the League of Women Voters on the privilege of voting and how few native-born Americans take it. "Every voice should be heard," she cried emotionally. I thought about hanging chads in Florida and the rioting native-born citizens who claim their voting rights were denied them. I felt kind of sorry that Sonia was becoming a citizen at a time when I have the least optimism for the direction in which our country is headed.
One of the new citizens was invited to the podium to sing a song she had written about becoming a citizen. Suffice to say that it probably will not be hitting the top 40 and Brittany Spears career is probably secure, but I know it was an emotional moment for this woman.
In due course, here come da judge... It happened to be Judge Ware, who, coincidentally, had been the keynote speaker at Toms graduation from Cal Poly in 1996. He gave a very nice speech to the new citizens and witnessed their oath of allegiance to this new country of theirs. Charlie admitted to wincing when Sonia had to agree to take up arms to defend the country. Hes not so sure he wants her toting heat. It also made me wonder how many of us native citizens really think about our responsibilities as citizens. They should have passed out cards to the spectators to remind us what being a citizen of this country is supposed to entail.
The "guest celebrity," a local newscaster, spoke at great length (the show needed a stage manager with a hook) about her own parents and how they had given up everything to relocate to this new country, how they did it because the promise of a new life was so important to them that it was worth giving up everything they owned, everything they knew, and all the people they loved in their native country to chase their dreams in the new country. She talked about what a good decision that had been and how, though there were hard times, the parents never regretted that decision.
Then a flag salesman spoke, also at great length, about the meaning of the flag and reverence for the flag and how inspiring it was to see flags flying at the inaugural ceremonies in Washington this past week (I wondered if hed seen the flags that had been burned in protest as well). I fully expected him to pass out little flags to the nearly 1,000 new citizens, but he didnt. Instead we all stood and pledged allegiance to the flag. Reminded me of the days when I used to attend Easter services in the Catholic church and we all renewed our baptismal vows.
And then it was over. The certificates of citizenship were passed out to the new citizens and they were free to go out into the world as new Americans.
We went to a restaurant in the Hilton Hotel across the street, where we had such abominable service that Sonia told us she felt like confronting the manager to complain. She was flexing her new American muscles already.
But she didnt burn the menu in protest.
Created 1/25/01 by Bev Sykes