A new American in our family! The Sweet Bride has negotiated all the steps required to become a naturalized U.S. citizen: she filed her paperwork, got fingerprinted, and proved she was a “responsible member of the community.” She attended an interview and passed a test assessing her knowledge of English and United States history and government. It only remains to take the Oath of Allegiance in a public ceremony.
On her recent visit here before the test, she brought her booklet of questions to study. We did our best to confuse her with background information about American politics and government to disguise the fact that we, specially I, don’t know all the basics! Do you know all the Founding Fathers? How many amendments to the Constitution? What did the Declaration of Independence do? And when? And how many representatives are in the U.S. House? And why? Sweet Bride knows these things.
She really studied, and adds success with this test to her degrees from Thailand and the one in International Business she received here (classes conducted in English). Two years ago she passed a difficult exam to qualify to be an insurance agent. When I complimented her on passing the citizenship test, she said: “Oh I had easy questions.”
The Sweet Bride amazes me, and I often think about what she’s had to learn after coming to this country on her own. She drives now in Los Angeles on the right side of the road (in Thailand she drove on the left). Not only is English new, but the alphabet and the writing completely different from Thai. Her beautiful hand printing retains a touch of the complicated Thai script she knows. And only the slightest lilt betrays her spoken English as a second language.
Occasionally, when I am chattering on, she looks puzzled so I stop and untangle the paragraph, figuring out which words confuse. Often it is some ridiculously unclear figure of speech – “going bananas” or “barking up the wrong tree.” Why do “fat chance” and “slim chance” mean pretty much the same thing?
And then there is irony. Driving into a completely full parking lot at Huntington Gardens, a native speaker might say: “Well I guess not many people came here today!” She called me on that one – why did I say that? Her efforts at this level of understanding make the communicating richer and richer.
Mrs. Hughes says she makes us cool – adding exoticism to our bland mix. America is lucky to have this new citizen. We are so lucky to have her in our family!