It is done! I took my oath, and am now a US Citizen. We got a little lost on the way there - Seattle's USCIS is in the middle of nowhere and charges $7 to park - and arrived just as they were starting to talk to "the candidates" about what the morning would entail. The guests, like my husband who took the day off to be there with me, were shepherded into the auditorium. The candidates were told that this was our last chance to change our mind. Once the oath has been taken, you can no longer be a permanent resident. We would go to the auditorium where we would receive our seating assignment ("just like graduation!"), turn in our green cards, and receive our packets. Our family and friends had already been seated in the guest section of the auditorium.
We all had pieces of paper, letters from the government summoning us to the ceremony. On the back were yes/no questions - have you left the country since your interview, have you been arrested since your interview, etc. Then we were told to sign and date it, "in this place of Seattle, WA - if you wrote your hometown, cross it out". Two people near me borrowed my pen.
They had us form a single-file line to the auditorium with our letters and green cards ready to hand in to the overseeing officer, who was very enthusiastic and pleasant. She had a cart with boxes for the green cards and a list of seating for all of us. The lady ahead of me in line had traveled to Turkey since her interview, and had to check her passport for the dates. I stepped around her to the other available officer, and was told to sit in seat 79. The officer handed me a packet and a miniature American flag. They had ushers inside the auditorium to show us where our seats were.
I found my spot, and played a bit on my phone while I waited for the rest of the candidates to finish filing in and finding their seat. A quiet, older gentleman sat to my left, and a mother from Honduras, dressed in a smart white suit, was to my right. Her kids were constantly coming over. With one of her younger sons, they had a ritual - he'd come over, say their phrase, and get a smooch. She also had a couple older kids, and a young baby. Her older son came over to take her photo at various times. The baby was a bit fussy, but dad seemed to be taking care of it. Her kids were beautiful, and I told her so. It's always so wonderful to me to see a family be so openly affectionate with one another.
Behind us, in the family section, a young woman piped up: "Can whoever is farting just stop it? Go outside! Don't come here and fart in the middle of everyone!" My husband replied, "Yeah, I would love to know how that works in real life."
After a while, I took a quick look in the packet they handed out. There was a letter from Obama, a commemorative folder for storage of the naturalization certificate, a passport application, a guide to federal elections, and a stiff card with the Oath of Allegiance on one side and the Pledge of Allegiance and the Star-Spangled Banner on the other.
The ceremony started. The officer in charge, whose name I forget because hello brain, told us there were 94 candidates from 36 (I think) countries. There was the playing of the National Anthem, the calling of the countries - which was really neat, they called out all the countries of origin and as they called yours out, you stood up - followed by the oath. The officer who administered the oath delivered a brief speech and we were shown videos. Then we stood up for the Pledge of Allegiance. Honestly, the ceremony felt a lot like a Catholic Mass.
The receiving of the certificate part was a lot like a graduation, just like we were told. We filed across the stage as our names were called, were handed the certificate by the officer who gave us the oath, and as we got off-stage we were handed the Washington State voter registration forms. Also available were "A Citizen's Almanac" (which seems to be an interesting little booklet about America and its history) and a pocket-sized edition of the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
We were shown another video that my husband confirmed for me after was very similar to what he was shown in the Navy, and then we were allowed to go. My husband had gotten a couple of photos, but for the one of me crossing the stage he said someone stood up right in the middle of the frame. Not surprising - there were a lot of people crowding around for photo ops during their loved ones' stage crossing. He had gotten one of me right as I was taking the oath (which I haven't seen yet, what with this hatred of most photos I take).
Hubby had to use the men's room, so I stood outside waiting. A woman in front of me in the auditorium whose salwar kameez I'd been drooling over the whole time was milling around too. I told her I loved her kurta, and she said it was from India. I was doing pretty well, until I stuck my foot in it and said, "And I love the colors, too. A lot of Americans won't wear red and green together - too Christmasy. But I love seeing them, because they go so well together." I'm weird. I love purple and yellow together too. But the look on her face told me that maybe I'd chose my words poorly so I stopped while I was ahead and blushed for a bit.
An Asian family was standing in the hallway, talking about the certificate. One of them comes over to me and points at the name and asks me to help spell it for them so they could make sure it was correct before they left. (Time-of corrections are free, otherwise, it's a form and $345.) I spelled the name out for them, and they were visibly relieved.
My husband emerged from the restroom. We headed back out to the car, and got righteously lost in industrial south Seattle trying to find our way back to the 5. I used to commute through the area when I lived there two years ago, and my cocky-ass brain says, "Ah, I can find my way no problem!" and then I end up going the wrong way down a one-way street. We eventually made it to the freeway and headed back homewards.
We stopped off at our favorite bar for a late lunch and celebratory drinks. The place was dead. We were the only ones there until about halfway through the appetizer and my older sister walks in. She asked me how it felt, and I answered that it reminds me a lot of when I lost my virginity - the feeling like I should be feeling different, but I don't.
I still don't, after two margaritas. But I am registered to vote. (Hooray online registration!)