Where Do You Belong?


My husband became U.S. Citizen yesterday. Yes, that’s him in my glasses. Now, he has all the rights of an American and at the same time, the responsibilities that come along. He can vote, he can travel with an American passport, and he has pledged to uphold the law of the land and to defend it, if necessary.

He has lived in this country for 33 years and in Denmark, where he was born, for 29 years. Yes, that makes him 62. All these years, he has travelled with a Danish and later an EU passport.  Did not want to give up his European connection. Until I insisted and until Denmark accepted dual citizenship.

In less than 6 months he went from the dutiful husband, applying for his new citizenship, to the proud member of his adopted society. I sensed his excitement on becoming part of this land.

Here, I need to add that I was born in this country and therefore, an American, however, I grew up in Denmark and my first language is Danish. When we speak our mother tongue, we sound Danish, and when we speak our adopted tongue, we have an accent.

During our many years together, since we came to this both glorious and challenged country, the question has been: ‘Where do we belong?’ And the answer is: ‘We are familiar with two cultures and their history, language, and traditions, however, we live only in the one culture, and our day-to-day experiences are lived here.’

We are comfortable in this land of many cultures and ethnicities, and when we visit Denmark (not very often), we are the ‘strangers’, familiar, yet lost. We have moved from place to place many times, although within California (besides a couple of years in Seattle), but not until we came to the small town of Calistoga in Napa Valley, did we really belong.

After the children grew up and started their own lives, we empty-nested here and found immediate kinship with the land, the town, and the people. Why? Lots of things! Husband is in the hospitality industry; we value the slower life-style here; we like the small town atmosphere, where you run into people you know all the time; and we appreciate the arts communities throughout the valley.

Citizenship is practical and beneficial, but belonging is emotional and personal and a feeling that is organic, contingent of place, people, and culture.

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