One more article on one of my favorite events of the year.
Monadnock Ledger-Transcript: Meet Temple’s newest U.S. citizen
By TONY MARQUIS
Sarah Mattson’s children — along with other children of friends and strangers — stood up in front of 101 new U.S. citizens and recited the “Pledge of Allegiance.”
“That got me teary — even better that they knew all the words and they were all doing it together,” Mattson said. “It was pretty cool.”
For months Mattson, who was born in Scotland, went through the “overwhelming” process of becoming a U.S. citizen. She took the tests, passed the interviews and provided the correct paperwork. On Tuesday, July 4, Mattson was one of the 101 honored in a ceremony at Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth. And during the pledge, surrounded by friends and family, she got emotional.
For the first time since news of a travel ban against immigrants was issued, Mattson no longer felt overwhelmed.
“It was a relief. It’s like now, I’m OK, I’m good,” Mattson said.
On Monday, a day before the July 4 ceremony, Mattson was waiting outside the Adams Pool in Peterborough for her oldest daughter Andrea, who is 11, to finish swim practice. Her youngest, 9-year-old Bryanna, was playing with her friends.
“Who is climbing the tree?” said Mattson to her youngest, who was moving her way up a tree at the playground with her friend, Chloe.
Chloe’s mother is Mattson’s friend Christine Bakunas-Mackensen. Though swim practice often runs late (and Mattson’s job and commute to Nashua keeps her out late) Mattson likes to take the kids.
“I don’t mind doing it, I meet people, I talk to the parents,” Mattson said.
It’s where she met Bakunas-Mackensen, who has two children of similar ages to Mattson’s. Bakunas-Mackensen brought her family to Mattson’s ceremony Tuesday. After the ceremony, Bakunas-Mackensen’s in-laws in Hampton hosted a party for Mattson.
Though Mattson is a new American, America isn’t new to Mattson, who lives in Temple. Her daughters were born in Peterborough. She has friends and she’s fully embedded in the Monadnock region.
“We click,” said Bakunas-Mackensen of her friendship with Mattson. “We understand each other, we’re just three for each other no matter what. She’s my best friend.”
Mattson has been in America since 1994, when she started working as a nanny through Au Pair America. For her first assignment, she took care of two young boys in Westboro, Massachusetts. She liked it so much, she keep working as an au pair for three more years.
“It was a different culture, there was a lot to see, a lot to do, it was just different for me,” Mattson said. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and then I stayed. And that was that.”
That’s around the time she met Adam Mattson, from Boylston, Massachusetts. Adam was a graduate of Worcester Vocational High School and was starting a career as an electrician. They met through mutual friends, hit it off and were married in 1998. Since 2000, Mattson has been in America on a green card. Even with two kids, who were born in Peterborough, Mattson didn’t think of getting her citizenship.
Until the travel ban.
When President Donald Trump’s first travel ban was issued in January, Mattson reached out to a Nashua lawyer. She was only semi-concerned about the ban — which didn’t include Scotland — and more concerned with any future bans.
“I called them and they said, ‘We really can’t guarantee you are safe with a green card,'” Mattson said.
Then the lawyer asked Mattson: Why haven’t you done it yet?
“The questions. The 100 questions scare me,” Mattson said.
The naturalization test is a series of 100 questions that include topics like the Constitution, civics and U.S. history. It’s not the only requirement for citizenship, but if a person fails the test, their application is rejected.
To study, Mattson downloaded an audio version of the 100 questions (with answers) and listened to it as she trained for the Laconia-based Girls on the Run 5K with her youngest daughter, Bryanna, who is 9.
“That was my running music — was 100 questions, it was the worst,” she said laughing.
To pass, a person must answer six of 10 random questions correctly. If a person gets the first six right, the proctor ends the test and the person passes.
Mattson got the first six right.
“I was told it would maybe take about nine months for the process, been a lot quicker than that,” said Mattson on Monday. “I’m sure that people are from countries that America doesn’t have a problem with, they’ll push those people through.”
In May, after she had her fingerprints taken in Bedford, and went through a rigorous interview, Mattson got a letter that she could be part of the July 4 naturalization ceremony, depending on space. If the July 4 ceremony, filled she’d have to do the 21st.
“Then I got the letter two weeks ago saying July Fourth, which is really good,” Mattson said. “I really wanted it.”