Today is the day. The day when I become French.
Technically I've been French "on the books" for the past 35 days, as my French-ness was recorded by the government on August 8th. I didn't find out about it until August 25th, however, and then it was only a few days ago that I received my acte de naissance, my official French birth certificate (which also states the record of my marriage and my naturalization record).
But today, we have the ceremony.
There will be a speech or two by some official at the Préfecture. The 40-50 of us who were formerly just immigrants, will all receive -- one at a time -- some more official documents, a handshake and probably some bisous on both cheeks. We will sing La Marseillaise together -- I am very excited to get to sing this song for THIS particular occasion, as I've known the words for years. I will belt it out like I'm singing down the Gestapo in Casablanca (favorite Casablanca scene ever).
And in an hour, it will all be over. I will walk into that room as a foreigner. I will walk out as a citizen. Et voila! Incroyable, when you think about it.
All the collecting and chasing down documents and translating documents for the past 7 years: done. All the worrying if we have enough papers, or the right papers, to satisfy some smug bureaucrat: done. (Although in actual fact, the fonctionnaires we've dealt with, for the most part, have been nothing but courteous, professional and even smiling, with the one notable exception of that apostille-hoarding bitch who made me cry.) All the wondering if we would ever have an unannounced visite to our home (we never did, although I know it does happen), all the constantly having to prove that we're in a real marriage when all we ever wanted to do was just BE married and enjoy our life together, and all the knots in our stomachs every time we have to go to the Préfecture because we never knew what they might spring on us: done. It is finished. Fin.
Today will be the first time ever that I have to go into a government building in France where I actually WANT to go. In fact, I can't wait. I might even be dancing my way into that Salle Marianne at the Bureau des Naturalisations. Bring it on, my fellow Frogs!
Now I'm just like every other French citizen. Which means I'm entitled to all the rights and privileges of being French, and for the rest of my life. I can live. I can work. I can smoke (but I won't.) I can laugh. I can love. I can also be mopey, disgruntled, stubborn, grumbling, and throw up my hands with a "Pas moi!" like all the rest of them. Solidarité, mes potes. We are French. We need explain ourselves to no one. Pfft.
I'm also hoping that, eventually, I will become French in other ways as well, because really I still feel like a clumsy, messy touriste much of the time. I guess I imagine that if I were REALLY French, I would be much better at tying my scarves (I'm getting there), that I would look perfect whenever I walk out of the house, even in jeans with bed-head (yeah, right), and that I would just exude that certain Je ne sais quoi like a proper French woman. That would be the cerise on the gâteau.
But it doesn't matter. No matter what I look like on the outside, and whether or not my scarves are correct, it's all taken care of. And I feel FREE. Today, nothing could be a disappointment to me, not even the lousy Parisian weather.
Because I'm French. At last.