Today, I completed a long journey which began in a small village in a coalfield. This coalfield wasn't in West Virginia or Ohio or Kentucky, however, it was in the dying coalfield of the East Midlands in England. I had a typical lower-working class childhood of the period, with a father invalided out of the mines at 56, and a mother going slowly blind through glaucoma and bad medical care. Certainly, times must have been hard but I barely noticed - for the house was filled with love!
(more below the orange Piscean calligraphy)
Love of books was instilled from an early age by my mother, who had won a scholarship to a local grammar school which wasn't taken up, because my grandparents could not afford the compulsory uniform. The house was filled with books such as 'The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists' and the works of D. H. Lawrence (he was born 4 miles away in Eastwood). My father's hero was the founder of the Independent Labour Party, the great Scottish socialist Keir Hardie.
Later, when both my older brother and I had made it out of the coalfield and through college (although Mike did work briefly for the National Coal Board, as it then was) we began to realize what an incredible foundation in life we had been given; filled with joy, a thirst for knowledge and a deep respect for others. Mike became a successful local politician, and an advisor to the Labour Party at a high level. My road was very different, leading through various industrial laboratories, museums, and the Royal Air Force.
A profound change in my life lead to my becoming an immigrant, and ending up here in New England (or England 2.0, as some of my English friends called it). Everything was new, yet achingly similar. Even the language was - almost - comprehensible, although the Bostonian accent was nothing like Boston, Lincolnshire! A tortuous path - did you know the the U.K. is one of the few countries in the world where the population may NOT take part in the 'Green Card' lottery? It must have been something we said, back in 1776! - eventually lead to a chilly day in February and Faneuil Hall, Boston, where with 411 others from all over the world, I raised my right hand, and pledged allegiance to the flag, and 'to the Republic for which it stands'.
I was profoundly moved. I supposed that, somewhere, the good shades of my American godparents (from Miller, South Dakota) who had, literally, adopted my parents during WW2 and, according to my mother showered them with food and clothing parcels, were faintly cheering at this point. I had come full circle, it seemed.
No - not quite. Completion came at 7.17am this brisk November morning, when I strode into my local library (a place where I had once worked), and proudly cast my vote for Barack Obama & Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Joseph Kennedy III, and every other Democrat I could find on the ticket.
I strode out of the polling place with tears in my eyes. Today, I truly am an American.