We were married in April of 2010, and we filed paperwork petitioning for my permanent resident status right away. Dave had to ask the government to let his new bride stay in the country with him. A necessary process, I suppose, but it was (and continues to be) complicated and expensive. Unfortunately, because I wasn’t allowed to leave the country (except for emergencies in Canada, and I would have needed special permission for that) while my green card application was pending, we couldn’t have an all-inclusive tropical honeymoon, or a romantic stay in Italy. Instead, we had a domestic honeymoon. Not domestic in that I wore an apron and baked bread while Dave watched football with a beer. Domestic as in mail or flights; that is, confined to the United States. Which isn’t so bad. It’s a big place.
We’d often talked about visiting Shenandoah, and never got around to it. When it came time to plan the honeymoon, Virginia wine country came up on our list of locations. We decided that it would probably be pretty in the Blue Ridge mountains in early May, so we booked a room in a quiet little bed and breakfast. With beautiful vineyards scattered all over the area, it seemed like a lovely, romantic place to enjoy our first married days.
And it was. It was beautiful. We tasted wines at half a dozen small vineyards, and learned a lot about what kinds of wines we like and why. We enjoyed vineyard picnics for lunch and sat on our balcony with tea or wine in the evenings. Our room was cozy, the breakfasts were unbelievable, and the scenery was all I’d hoped for.
It truly was a wonderful week. But… it wasn’t a week in Italy. It wasn’t an all-inclusive beach resort with snorkeling and sunburns and a butler. It wasn’t what either of us had imagined when we first contemplated the wedding and discussed honeymoon getaways. He did his best to create a wonderful experience for his wife: I asked for somewhere beautiful and quiet, and he delivered. I did my best to love it. In the end, though, we were both trying to make the best of an unfair situation.
We’ve been to other places since then, notably a fantastic cruise (and another planned), so I know I shouldn’t complain. And honestly, it’s not that I didn’t enjoy my time in Virginia – I truly did. I want to go back, maybe for our anniversary next spring. But I hate that our hands were tied and our choices limited by immigration rules. I hate that I’m made to feel like a criminal every time I need to deal with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. I hate being photographed, fingerprinted, and interrogated. I hate paying them thousands of dollars to look over the same documentation again and again. I hate asking friends to write letters testifying that my marriage is legitimate.
I want to look at this ornament and remember the lovely time we had on our honeymoon. Because we did have a lovely time. I could tell you about the fun we had, and I considered putting away the bad feelings to share only the good ones here today. But this project is about getting inspiration from an ornament, and this is what came out today, as I looked at those little butterflies. Maybe someday I’ll be able to put the bitterness away completely and only remember the joy and love I felt on that trip. But this week, I’m sending in a stack of documents (some quite personal) so that the United States government can decide once again whether I’m allowed to stay here with my husband in our home. And this won’t be the last time they demand we prove the legitimacy our relationship. With that pressure hanging over my head, all I can think of is how we were denied a beautiful Italian honeymoon because the government chooses to operate on the assumption that all marriages to foreigners may be fake.