September 17, 2013
My parents were children during WWII. My father was born in Greece and remembered the worst. My mother was born in Canada on the very day the Nazis marched into Poland. My paternal grandparents, with four young children in tow, managed to escape the civil war in Greece when my father was 13. Their intent was to immigrate to the United States but there was a document snafu in Athens. They were lucky to be able to board a ship to Canada. This was to be temporary though as my grandfather had already lived in San Francisco. I’m murky on the details but, he may have already been a U.S. citizen. As a young man he’d owned a small candy store in San Francisco. He also worked on the railroad and served in the United States Army as an interpreter. He went back to Greece to marry my Yia Yia but his heart never left the United States. It was the land of opportunity and the home of the free.
On this date in 1955 my parents wed in Canada. The following year my older brother was born. Two years later the entire family finally immigrated to the United States. They came to California specifically because the San Francisco Bay area reminded my grandfather of Greece (the old country). That is how they always referred to Greece, “the old country.” The United States was their country. My parents were very young and overcame many hurdles to both marry and become United States citizens At the time, a sponsor was required. My grandfather’s uncle was a Superior court judge in San Francisco and he sponsored them. I don’t know the exact timeline but they soon began the process to become Naturalized citizens. I recall the stories of how they had to study for the citizenship exam. One of the requirements was that they read the constitution. I believe they were tested on it as well. They passed with flying colors. I don’t have the photos of them on that day but they exist. I recall their suits, the carnation on my father’s lapel, my mother’s young, beautiful smile. Throughout their lives they carried the title of “United States citizen” proudly. Several years after they were naturalized I was born and with my birth the first born American citizen arrived.
I heard it from the time I was a child. We were lucky. America was the greatest country in the world. It was instilled in all of us. My parents were the most patriotic people I’ve ever known. I remember them debating the sample ballots very carefully. Researching, vetting, discussing. The polls were at my elementary school. I recall watching them walk hand in hand every single Election Day to vote. The flag was always flown on appropriate holidays and I believe they had the same flag all of their lives. I don’t recall it being discussed that they were married on Constitution Day. I’m fairly certain they did not realize it was such while they were Canadian citizens but, anything is possible.
On this constitution day I honor my parents as I strive to do every day. I owe everything I’ve become to them. It is not a small matter that it is in honor of their memory that we stay in the state they chose. I choose to stay in California. I do what I can to fight for my beloved state, their beloved state. I can quite vividly picture them cheering me on from Heaven. Sometimes, though less frequently lately, they are next to me in my dreams. Not talking, just watching. The quiet, no problem, bookworm middle child turned out to be the feisty one! Happy constitution day America and happy anniversary mom and dad. I know that despite the turmoil in their precious state and country, they rest in peace. I know they worry not about me for I am their daughter; their first born citizen of the greatest country on earth.
Addendum : I was taught that a writer should never apologize for her work and I shan’t but I must say that this is imperfect. Some specifics may be slightly inaccurate and I’d love to get this down perfectly. My parents died young and many stories died with them. This is my recollection of events. My parents loved us all equally but differently. They didn’t have a favorite. I know that my parents would be particularly proud of my elder brother lately as am I. He’s been reading the constitution and the founding father’s writings. But, that’s not my story to tell further without his permission. For tonight, I’ll just get this down while it is still Constitution day (it is in California), and perhaps edit it later. Thank you all for reading it. My parents would love that I wrote it, imperfect though it is.