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“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart”  Helen Keller

On Friday I left work at 11am.  My sister met me outside of our building.  She got in the car and we proceeded to discuss the best way to get to White Plains, NY.

Should we avoid the highway and just use the local route?  It would take a bit longer but we wouldn’t have the usual highway delays of lately.  We chose local.

We were wrong. We encountered two road blocks due to construction.  I feel the entire New York state is under construction.  At one point my sister asked if we were near, as we ended up taking some back roads that she was not familiar with.  I could feel her relief when I said that we were only 5 minutes away.

Finally we arrived our location.  Now we proceed to the parking near it. I didn’t think there was any room on the first level so I took the curvy route all the way to the 6th floor.  Getting out of the parking lot and into the street was another long story, as we kept getting off on different streets and had to go back and find the right exit.

By now it was 12: 05.  She had to be there at 12:15pm.  I pointed to a building in the corner and said: there it is.  She panicked when she saw that it said: White Plains Library on the building.  She feared we were on the wrong place.  I assured her that the right building was just next door.  Again, relief on her face on she saw the 111 Number sign on the building, signaling the right place: 111 Martin Luther King Boulevard, the address of the Westchester County Court.

We entered it, went though the security desk, and were pointed to the right courtroom.  There was a big signed that said: NATURALIZATION.

“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.”  Maya Angelou, Celebrations: Rituals of Peace and Prayer

On this Friday, November 4th 2022, my sister officially became a United States citizen.  I have been a citizen for a long time, but still, during the whole event I was moved and had a lump in my throat.  It was emotional to be in a room with 48 newly naturalized citizens and their families, with so many different cultures, languages, backgrounds and stories of trials and triumph.

Upon entering the courtroom, the new citizens to be first lined up to see the desk clerks to answer some final questions and to surrender their green cards.  Then they sat and waited for the ceremony to start.  When it started Tim C. Idoni, the court clerk and a previous New Rochelle Mayor, administered the Oath of Citizenship to the new citizens.  Then the entire room got up for the Pledge of Allegiance. 

Then the presiding judge spoke. I can’t recall her name but it was her first time presiding over the Oath of Ceremony. In her Congratulatory speech, she welcomed the new citizens and also added some of her personal history to it.  She mentioned she was the granddaughter of Irish immigrants, and the first person from her family to go to college, law school, and now become a judge.

Then they called names, 3 at a time.  The new citizens would go to the front, shake hands with the Judge and the County Clerk and be handed the Certificate of Naturalization.  My sister came back to her seat beaming with pride.  She was now focused on trying to get a picture with the Judge and the clerk at the end.  She wanted to document the day in any and every way she could.

As soon as they declared the proceedings over, she jumped up and went to ask for a picture with the judge and clerk.  They graciously agreed.  I took a few pictures, then realized that a line started to form of people wanting to take pictures.  She had started a chain reaction.

At first she loved the pictures I took, but later she took a closer look.  Apparently, I always cut the feet off when I take full length pictures of people standing up.  When she started to complain about it, I didn’t say anything.  I am learning the virtues of silence in certain situations. Also, it was her day!

In the evening I treated her to dinner at Sergio’s in Pelham, NY.  They have the best short ribs with risotto ever! Actually, my boss paid for dinner as congratulations to her.

After the ceremony, she called and emailed everyone she could think of.  She wanted the world to share in her happiness and good fortune.

It took my sister 12 years to get a green card, and then another 5 years to get the citizenship.  She is over the moon!  She is proud, happy, and above all grateful for this amazing opportunity.  I am all of that as well, and more!

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive—to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love—then make that day count!”  Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free