Monday, July 2, 2007

Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right...

Here I am, stuck in the middle with...y'all.

Thank you Stealers Wheel for the lyric.

Yesterday was Canada Day(hooray!). Wednesday is the Fourth of July (also hooray!). And I am feeling...hollow.

As the blog title suggests, I am a Canadian living in the United States. I was born in Canada, but I've lived half my life here in the U.S., and these two holidays so close to each other always bring up those conflicted feelings I have about whether I am Canadian or American.

By law, I am a Canadian citizen. My mother is a Canadian citizen, my father is an American citizen, and I was born in Canada. But I don't really feel Canadian anymore. I don't sound particularly Canadian, unless you get me talking to my family or friends up there on the phone and then I carry those pronunciations around with me for a few hours. I care about what happens up there politically, and I certainly would fit in there in many ways in my philosophies on life, gun control, socialized medicine, drug laws. And yet...

I really believe in the U.S. Constitution, and it's wonderful vagaries. I respect and believe in the system of checks and balances (even when it's corrupted), even if I'm not legally allowed to vote in elections here. I listen to American music, my taste is towards American food (with a few exceptions), and I've forgotten most of the metric system.

I've been thinking a lot lately about getting my U.S. citizenship. It crosses my mind every now and again, but it's been knocking on my brain pretty steadily since we moved to Georgia a couple of months ago. The problem is, it's expensive, it's time consuming, and generally it's a pain in the ass. Come to think of it, coming here legally with a Green Card was also time consuming, expensive and a pain in the ass, and my Dad was already a U.S. citizen! To come here legally, you have to be on a waiting list, you get to take a bunch of really embarrassing medical tests, and shell out a lot of cash, and be fingerprinted when you enter the country. We got through in about a year, partly because my Dad is a U.S. citizen, and I think we may have had some political help on the inside. But it was still tough.

To gain your citizenship, you need to have lived and worked in the U.S. for five years as a Permanent Resident Alien (which is my status). Then you need to fill out lots of forms (which they sometimes lose) at an Immigration Office that handles citizenship cases. The nearest one to me is in Atlanta. The cost right now is approximately five hundred dollars, not including travel expenses of course. You also need to take a history/civics test, which I have a feeling most U.S. citizens born and raised here couldn't pass. It's the hoops I have to jump through that have been the main reason I haven't gone through with it.

But it's also the fact that there's a little tiny voice inside of me that keeps saying I'll be losing something important if I give up my Canadian citizenship. It sounds stupid, but it's something that makes me unique, even if I don't mention it in casual conversation with everyone.

When I go up to visit my family, I'm overwhelmed by feelings of home, and I never want to leave. I miss buying butter tarts at Loblaws, I miss buying my milk in four litre plastic bags, I miss seeing TTC trolleys and buses. I miss standing on the shore of either Lake Huron (where my gran lives) or Lake Ontario (where I used to live) and feeling the breeze and watching the sea gulls. I miss the quiet that only comes with a really good snowfall. At the same time, though, when I am here, standing on my front porch watching the sunset, or standing on the beach at Tybee Island watching the shrimp trawlers come in or the dolphins playing in the surf, I can't imagine being anywhere else. I can't imagine not eating shrimp and grits, listening to people say "How y'all doin' today?", and feeling that warm, moist, chewy air caressing my face every morning.

And so I stand here, not really Canadian anymore, but not really American, either. Just somewhere, stuck in the middle.


jillian said...

That's the greatest part about coming home... no, not buying butter tarts at Loblaws. :) Yes, you definitely have lost your Canadian accent, and you've most definitely picked up some of the Southern drawl - for lack of a better word! However, it's always your choice whether you want to shell out the 500 bucks (which is insanely expensive!) and do all the tests. Whether you do it or not, you'll still be a Canuck. I'll post some recipes in my next thing... some canuck ones just 4 u. :)

Flutterbot said...

Happy Canada Day! what is Canada day anyway, oh wait I'll wikipedia it when I'm done leaving you the message. I think you should be proud to be a Canadian. I think every Canadian I've ever met has always struck me as extremely kind and generous. Much like I think of most San Franciscans (like myself ;) ) I've been in NYC for three years but I never broke down and got my NY licence because I don't want to give up my California one.

Gurnal said...

What you have, Jen, is something most people don't. That is vivid memories of what makes Canada and America special. I get jealous sometimes when I hear sights and sounds that most likely I won't ever see. Your talk of quiet snowfalls and the uniqueness North of the border makes me curious.

Knowing your penchant for song Hannah Montans says...

"You get the best of both worlds."

The Rotten Correspondent said...

Oh Jen. What a heartfelt post. Of course you do need to follow your own dreams, but it does seem like you have the best of all worlds. As another transplant I really believe that you can have one place in your heart and another in your day to day reality. And voting is overrated anyway. It never does us any good...:)

my two cents said...

Hi Jen-It is so nice to hear of another who has their heart in two places. It is SO hard. I have lived in California for twenty years, but New Jersey's still my home, and I pine for it. I want to live in New England at some point in my life, and yet there is this ever growing part of me that wonders if some part of California is my home, too. I miss the wonderful quiet of a new-fallen snow and am very sad that my children don't know it, or the incredible magic of a snow day in the middle of winter. I miss rain, too. I miss New York, I miss the Atlantic Ocean and the soft sand. I have a Califonria accent now, and they don't let me forget it. We will be on a plane on Thursday for a few weeks of "home" and then we'll come "home" to the house and life that are mine now. The intoxicating smell of orange blossom in February simply can't be replicated where I grew up, and it is now part of my internal clock as much as the smell of the thaw in the spring were in the east. It is hard, but you can have your heart in two places. I think a lot of us do.

Dumdad said...

Interesting post.
I, too, am split. An Englishman, I've lived for 15 years in Paris, France. My wife is French and my children, born in Paris, are Anglo-Frogs (I keep their English passports up to date; just in case).
Perhaps we should be content with having the best of two worlds.

Jen said...

Hi, My Two Cents, thanks for stopping by!

And I think you and dumdad (and everyone else) are right, sometimes you just need to be thankful for having the best of both worlds (although, I think a real Southern BBQ restaurant would go over well in Toronto). I, too, am sad that The-Four-Year-Old will likely not know the glory of a "snow day", but at least she's seen the stuff, and loves it, so that makes me happy.

Do any of you ever feel just a teensy bit like you're betraying some part of yourself by being happy somewhere else?

Dumdad said...


The Rotten Correspondent said...


The Zookeeper said...

Every day.

Dan said...

And so I stand here, not really Canadian anymore, but not really American, either. Just somewhere, stuck in the middle.

It's all just labels anyway, isn't it? You are who you are, without labels. And from what I'm reading you seem pretty darn cool!

Thanks for visiting my blog. I wouldn't have met you otherwise! :)

Jo Beaufoix said...

Jen what a lovely post.

It sounds like your heart is in two places, but that's ok.

It's a bit like when you have a new baby and you worry you can't love it as much as the first, then you realise there's just more love to go round.

The things you love about both sound great and as long as you're happy that's all that counts.

What is also cool is the fact you can say,

"I am a permamnent resident alien."

It makes you sound all mysterious and otherworldly.

Do you have green hair?

Can you morph into other people and objects?

Do you like cheese?

Sorry...I'll stop now.


Jen said...

Hi, Dan, thanks for coming by and for the compliments *grin*

And Jo, I even have a special card that has a picture of a scowling 14 year old with her right index finger print on it, with the words PERMANENT RESIDENT ALIEN in big letters across the top. Strangely enough, my green card isn't green. So far, I've morphed from teen goth, to hippie college student, to DJ, to Mommy. I've never had green hair, but it's worth a shot. And yes, I do like cheese. LOL

taqdeer said...

Hi Jenz :)

Hehe, everytime I read about the shrimp & grits ya'll eat, i get a craving for it!

Happy Canada Day AND happy 4th of July! (almost)

Remember that you are both :) Because you are an earthling - the whole planet is your home :)

We forget that we didn't draw the lines around the countries we were born in ;)

Enjoy all sides of it! :D