I waited anxiously as one might while waiting to receive college acceptance letters. Everyday, between the hours of 11am and 2pm, I would sit on my living room couch and watch for the mailman. Once he placed the mail in my shark mailbox I would run out the front door and look for the letter from USCIS.
The difference between waiting for my USCIS letter and a college acceptance letter was that there was no way to prepare yourself. For example, if your college decision comes in a large, thick envelope you can pretty much tell it’s an acceptance letter and your new student materials are enclosed. If it’s in a regular letter envelope, you can brace yourself for disappointment. All of USCIS’s letters came in letter envelopes…so there was no telling.
I’d scan letter after letter – Victoria’s Secret rewards, State Farm Insurance statement…but no sign of my letter. I called USCIS a million times to make sure I hadn’t gotten lost in the shuffle – I didn’t want to wake up one night surrounded by a SWAT team throwing a black bag over my head. They assured me my letter would be sent out as soon as possible and just to remain patient.
Then, one day, as I skimmed viciously through the mail at my kitchen table, I saw the USCIS return address label.
“Well, aren’t you going to open it?” my mother asked.
“Mom,” I said, beginning to feel the tears arrive, “what…what if…”
“Now you listen to me, Lauren.” she said, taking her face in my hands. “I don’t care what that letter says. I am your mother…and no one on this planet is going to take you from me.”
“Promise?” I cried.
“I promise.” she said, taking me in her arms.
I tore open the letter, began to bawl, turned to my mother and read, “Dear Ms. Sharkey, It is with great pleasure that I inform you that your request for citizenship has been granted…”