It threw it down on the Jubilee Bank Holiday, back in June 2012. Just as well that first flush of wanting to persuade my disparate, and probably indifferent, neighbours to somehow “come together” via a street party came to nowt.
I realise my stance as a Royalist* makes me even more of an oddity in my neighbourhood than the more obvious weirdness of an American accent, and mental health problems. How to explain – whether to our Czech neighbours, whose limited English was always supplemented by smiles, or the middle-aged British couple whose hurried pace makes it clear they don’t do chit-chat: at least, not with us – my feelings about my adopted country?
I sat and passed an exam, and paid dearly for the right to become a citizen, largely due to emotional reasons, rather than practical ones. A British passport will be nice. Better still if the £80 + cost had been included in the ludicrous amount – around £1,000 – I paid to become a citizen.
For me, however, it wasn’t about a passport. It wasn’t even about finally being able to vote, though after 24 years of paying tax that is very welcome. And it certainly wasn’t about the right to stand for office, or sit on a jury.
No, it was a gut feeling: a reaction to the very earth which makes up my untidy back garden; the straggly Georgian and Victorian grandeur which still clings to this bread-and-butter town of Doncaster, as well as Britain’s more celebrated and well-known beauty spots.
Those words come to mind: verses written by the American poet Robert Frost, and spoken at the inauguration of one of my homeland’s most iconic presidents of the 20th century, John F. Kennedy. Strange words to think of in the context of my adopted home of England? Or perhaps not. I was a legal resident, taxpayer, and home owner in Britain long before my homesickness for America began to fade.
My original home: but is it still home? Until recently, I seldom longed for it in a healthy way: that is, with emotions which were neither nostalgic, nor escapist.
Now, though, I look through my writings, including these blogs, and sense, whilst certainly nostalgia, also what I can only describe as a sweetness, when I think of the States in general, and my home state of Michigan in particular.
Does this indicate greater maturity, security, or merely the passing of time? I have now spent over half of my life in what began as a foreign country. Britain, and in particular, Yorkshire has shaped me in so many ways: accent, word choice, media, diet …
I even swear in Yorkshire, these days.
And the States I now watch from afar, via the internet and telly: well, it isn’t the land I remember from my childhood, and youth. Despite the election – twice, now – of its first black president, it seems more divided, politically and religiously, than ever before.
But has America truly changed so much? Or have I? The proof of this pudding will be in my long-planned, and longed for, visit in a few years’ time.
*Of the Green-Liberal-somewhat Socialist persuasion, that is