Independence Day

Yesterday, out for a walk, I spied a bonafide London taxi in a driveway, shining and soapy in the sun. "Nice ride!" I called out to the invisible car-washer.

A handsome grey-moustachioed man appeared with soapy sponge in hand. As we chatted about right-side steering (he prefers it, except for drive-up banking and parking garages), I noticed his rich Middle Eastern accent.

It was one of those encounters that reminds you that you live in a real neighborhood with real neighbors.

"Happy 4th!" I said after a few moments as I stepped on between the orderly rose bushes. "The same to you!" he said with a kind of conscious gusto that only another immigrant would recognize.

As I walked away I was surprised to find myself suddenly thinking of that winter day in Boston, sitting on the wooden benches of Faneuil Hall (cradle of the Revolution) next to people in shawls and headscarves and parkas during our naturalization ceremony. Newly graduated from Boston University and spending a winter in a cabin in Alaska, I had risked avalanches and an active volcano to fly back. The paperwork, if I'd wanted to change the location to Anchorage, the Department of Immigration informed me, would take two extra years to process.

I had expected it to be a formality, tiresome and maybe even cheesy. But the judge in charge of the day read a most heartfelt and stirring speech. And as I looked around me at the people on the benches it dawned on me that almost everyone around me had risked far, far greater dangers than I could even imagine for the privelege of sitting on that bench, holding a tiny paper flag on the end of a toothpick and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to their new country, for which it stood, and which meant to them not just opportunity but life.

To my parents, who made this courageous move, to this country, for being (and fighting off the British, rah), to all those people with me at Faneuil Hall that day, Happy Independence Day. I for one am going to go and make some art, and go for a bike ride, and walk around and smile at people.