Belonging

Talitha and I have been getting an education in the British naturalisation process. I’ve qualified to apply to become a British citizen for about a year now but I’ve only just got around to doing something about it. Finally, I submitted my application two days ago. And, of course, because both my children are with me ALL THE TIME these days, they, their rattles and Hello Kitty puzzles, food, drinks and QUESTIONS went with me to Bristol Registry Office for the Nationality Checking Service appointment.

Typically, I wound up filling out the form the day before and suddenly realised that I needed referees and passport sized photographs. Eek. Realised this at 5pm-ish, I should add. Cue me rushing together some supper so we could drive around and get friends’ signatures (thanks, guys!) and go into town to hit up a photo booth and get one of the ugliest photos of myself to date. Five quid for the pleasure.

Obviously, this is my fault. And I am so glad all the documentation is in. Now I’m just playing the waiting game. The interesting thing about that last-minute dash was that Talitha was very involved and therefore very interested in what was going on.

“Why do you have to write on that paper, Mummy?”
“What are you writing?”
“What does [insert long word with complex meaning, phonetically sounded out letter by letter] mean?”
“Am I a British a cit-ah-sion? Is Effie a British cit-ah-sion? Is Daddy a British cit-ah-sion?”
“Oh, but you aren’t a British cit-ah-sion.”

She wanted to know what a citizen was. After a bit of head scratching, I explained that being a citizen means belonging to a country. She understands the concept of countries because we’ve been to Trinidad and Tobago. She knows my parents live there and that I grew up there. We look at the map together and she knows where T&T is, where England is and that that is where we are now.

“Do you want to belong here, Mummy?” she asked.

I caught my breath. The bigness of that idea.

“I suppose so,” I said. But it’s so much more complicated than that. I can’t explain to her that even if the ink hits the paper to call me British, even when I marry the United Kingdom in a citizenship ceremony and sing the national anthem, even after marrying a British man, having British children, learning a British accent, British cultural markers, some British sensibilities, even then I’m not sure I’ll ever belong here.

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve experimented with saying “our country”, casually dropping it into conversations. No one’s noticed. But it feels so odd for me to say it.

Then again, I read Trinidad and Tobago news, I see my friends’ and family’s Facebook statuses, I look at old photos and I feel the distance. While that place is an inseparable face on the prism through which I view myself and the world, it’s begun to feel a bit like pretending when I call it “my country” too. That makes me feel a little sad.

Luckily, I will have dual citizenship but I’m not sure I’m telling the truth when I explain “citizenship” as belonging. Or maybe it’s truer than I’m prepared to accept.

I handed over my documents on Tuesday and we made our way to the registry office’s lift.

“Are you a British cit-ah-sion now, Mummy?”

“Not yet.”


9 Comments

  1. January 29, 2015 / 11:10 pm

    Completely know where you’re coming from with this. I’m British by birth but grew up in the States; we came back when I was a teenager but I didn’t feel British, I felt American. But the States isn’t home now either. There’s a book about this displacement in society, specifically for kids but I still affiliate with it! It’s, “Third Culture Kids,” which hits the nail on the head for me!

  2. January 29, 2015 / 11:11 pm

    What a touching post! I can’t really imagine what it must be like to live between two countries, one born and raised and another adopted and yet not quite a citizen. I’ve always wanted to live abroad now that I’m an adult. I’ve lived in Australia as a child but now I wonder how I would feel leaving the national nest? x
    Lori recently posted..PLANTS + COFFEE // URBAN JUNGLE BLOGGERS

  3. January 29, 2015 / 11:45 pm

    Great post, it must feel strange to be taking on another culture to the one you were raised in

  4. January 30, 2015 / 10:32 am

    It must be strange feeling such a split, and not completely feeling like either country really belongs to you. Good luck with the application, I think it must be most exciting to have dual citizenship 😀 x
    Fiona recently posted..And Then She Was Three

  5. January 30, 2015 / 5:22 pm

    I always forget that it must be really strange for you to be living in the UK. Having grown up here it’s hard for me to imagine any other kind of way of life but things were so different for you growing up, the weather being a huge difference! I lived in Spain for a while and missed England so much that I think I would struggle moving anywhere else permanently although I have such a dream of doing so X

  6. February 1, 2015 / 8:16 am

    I love how much of an interest Talitha has in it all, it’s such an interesting conversation! I’ve never lived anywhere else but I know my sister who lives in Spain feels that feeling of not quite belonging anywhere properly! Lovely post x
    abigail recently posted..Smoothie love!

  7. February 1, 2015 / 10:11 am

    Lovely post Adele. I think Britain is lucky to have you, frankly. And I laughed out loud at the puzzles and snacks and QUESTIONS coming with you. I know how that feels! Most places I go at the moment I’m accompanied by a battery-operated Thomas the Tank Engine who is NEVER SWITCHED OFF.
    Cathy recently posted..What can I do? Activism and real life.

  8. February 1, 2015 / 5:29 pm

    What a beautifully written and thought-provoking post. I can’t imagine living anywhere but the UK, even though I’ve spent time travelling and temporarily living in other countries. The pull back to home has always been so strong. Mind you, what a wonderful thing to be able to give your kids the experience of the UK AND Trinidad and Tobago.

  9. February 8, 2015 / 12:49 am

    I would be the same – filling out things the day before and then rushing around trying to get the bits and pieces needed before the due date. Its so nice to hear such interesting question being asked and it can be hard to explain these things – I’m so grateful to have a British Passport but my son asked me today when are we going to see my “home” and knows that I am from Africa and not from Wales.

    Laura x
    Laura recently posted..Exploring Cosmeston with the Fiat 500L

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