Saying Goodbye to the Green Card – Goodbye

It’s final. I am naturalized citizen of the United States of America. I am an American – a Korean-American to be specific.

We filed in after having our identities checked against records and confirmed twice and then giving up our green cards. I wish federal law allowed me to snap a photo but we were in the foyer and not in the auditorium. There was something beautiful and poignant in that stack of green cards – so many stories to be told.

The ceremony was a mix of corny and genuine. The couple in front of me held hands and glanced several times at their 8-year-old-ish daughter who was presumably American-born and their photographer for the day. The couple and the woman to my right shed a few tears as 121 of us stood up as the names of the 44 countries we represented were called out. Lucky for them I always carry kleenex.

The immigration officer spoke about the sacrifices immigrants through the generations have made to make this country their adopted home – leaving behind lives to start anew, sometimes leaving behind everything for nothing more than hope.

My mind wandered a bit because I was eight months old when I left Seoul. I’m not sure what I left behind. The only story that tugs at my heart is that of my great-grandmother wandering the neighborhood, calling out for me long after we had left the country. I left her behind, and we never knew each other long enough to perhaps say a proper goodbye.

The ceremony also included recognizing the men and women currently serving in the armed forces, including the story of one man who was commended for his bravery and service in the Viet Nam War. Even before he was an American he fought for America.

Honestly, the well-scripted ceremony had me ready to pull out the kleenex for myself and then they played a music video complete with karaoke style lyrics of “I’m Proud to Be An American” on the three large screens. My apologies to those of you who love that song. Personally, it makes me cringe. The song rings a bit jingoistic, and if you’re going to showcase a song to welcome Americans let’s showcase the very best of what America has to offer. Or at the very least, play the national anthem recorded by a quality vocalist and orchestration. Ugh.

And before I knew it we were free to linger, take pictures by the stage or downstairs in the foyer  between the two flags, and leave the building as Americans. The security officer who had so humorously helped me and Peter through the security check-point congratulated me. We rushed off to pick up the kids from school after an equally rushed celebratory lunch – Portillo’s Chicago-style hot dogs.

As for my choice of proper attire, I dressed up. I paid way too much money to not take this day as a reason to dress up – a little black dress with a beautiful emerald green silk coat of my mother’s. She once told me that she had taken the fabric given to her by her in-laws as part of their wedding gift to her to have party dresses and matching coats made. She had imagined her life in America being full of parties and celebrations, but the dresses hung in her closet, dusty and unused.

I thought it appropriate that on the day I said goodbye to my green card I would wear my mother’s unused green party clothes to celebrate. Thank you, Mom and Dad for giving me your dreams, and thanks to all of you who joined me on this journey.


  1. Lisa January 28, 2010

    kathy, the attire was perfect. i love the symbolism. congrats. what a powerful day.

  2. Josh Deng January 29, 2010

    thank you for sharing Kathy, and congratulations! I will be applying for citizenship this year so I no doubt will be going through some of the same things you have, so thanks for giving us such a great insight into it.

  3. Stuart Ciske January 29, 2010

    Nothing say AMERICA like a Portillo’s hot dog. Nothing!

  4. Kacie January 29, 2010

    Hah, I would have reacted exactly as you – the ceremony sounds poignant, but I LOATHE “And I’m Proud To Be An American”. *cringe*…

  5. Spiny Norman January 29, 2010

    I’m a little choked up here after reading your post. I almost gagged when reading that they played that dog-gone “Proud to be an Amercian” song. Certainly, there are better songs about America. Sigh. Being a citizen does NOT account for good taste, obviously.

    I love the story about your great-grandmother, your mom’s green jacket and the number of countries represented. This country is represented by so many other countries. Now, if we could all just learn to celebrate that a little bit more.

    Speaking of celebrating, let’s do some of that – you’re a citizen, I’m a year older. Good times.

  6. Hannah January 30, 2010

    Congratulations!!! 🙂

  7. […] Ms. Khang’s essay in full at her blog, More Than Serving Tea. Posted by yellowkid Filed in Asian American Tagged: ICE, Kathy Khang, More Than Serving Tea, […]

  8. Dana Smith February 23, 2010

    Liked your story…
    Congratulations that you got what you wanted…
    Your story is the insight of what one has to go through during the whole process.

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