My first words were ''Da! Da! Ayo! and Bali!'' Mixing Russian Armenian, and Persian words in one sentence, Mama understood.
I ate the grapes and grape leaves of Tabriz . . . drank the tan of Tehran. Entered the United States like the Puritans in Boston, but on a freighter the S. S. Minut Victory.
In P. S. 189 Miss Weinstein rolled down the map and asked me in front of the sixth grade class, ''Now, Mary will show us where she came from and I just stood there not knowing Persia's shape or color, unable to read the English word ''Iran.'' Miss Weinstein waited, the class waited, and I waited red heat through my cheeks.
Learned the cat tongue called English The ''Meow, meow, now,'' I needed to know. Helped the sales girl understand Mama wanted face powder and not bath powder. Told Murray I didn't know if I liked him as he walked me back and forth from school.
In Nyack won the American Legion Citizenship Medal before I became an American citizen. Almost won it again in Englewood as the ninth graders voted. I was second and still not a citizen. Eight more years I had to wait to reach age twenty-one.
Collected Dixie lids of Roy Rogers and Clark Gable. Went on my first hayride, bobbed for apples, learned to square dance. Fell back on the hard ''gh'' of ''ing'' when the N.Y. Times lady scolded me for poor delivery. Miss Slade, my spelling teacher, stamped her foot to teach me ''i'' before ''e'' except. . . .
At Beaver College, Miss Elder drilled me on the tape recorder till I lost all trace of accent, even the New Jersey nasal ''Douwn.'' I was ready to take my citizenship test. I was even thinking in English, except for numbers, ''Yek, doe, ce. . . .'' Mrs. Diaz dressing for a wedding came too late, and our neighbors signed the papers. The examiner asked me to spell ''home.'' ''Take your time,'' he said. ''H o m e,'' I answered immediately. ''Harry Truman is the President of the United States. Thirteen colonies, forty-nine states.'' Another wait, nearly six months, and I stood up in the Court House in Hackensack with a group of immigrants raising my right hand, ''I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America . . . so help me God.'' I cast my first absentee ballot for Eisenhower. The notary smiled. He liked Ike, too.
I met my husband in the mirror room of the Glenside Castle. He had a crew cut and asked me to dance. He was from Princeton and his eyes were green, his ancestry German and American. Years later, I discovered his relation to the Pilgrim Father, William Brewster, and Henry Knox General Washington's General who liberated Boston from the British. Our sons, Charles and James Knox Freericks, have Armenian, Russian, German, American, and traces of Spanish and Scottish blood. They play baseball and eat hamburgers, learn to count backwards watching the lift offs.
On July 4, 1976, we all get up at 3:00 a.m. to see Op Sail. See the warships, the helicopters, and hear the bells ring as we join the people in Allison Park spontaneously singing, ''Happy Birthday, America.'' Finally, see the fireboat Spraying water, the tugboats in procession, the Good Year blimp over head. Hear, ''The Eagle is coming.'' Catch sight of white sails only to see it turn back at George Washington Bridge. See the tug boats turn back, the fire boat turn back, The Good Year blimp turn back, and wonder if the ten hour wait was in vain as the Christian Radich and Danmark turn back. The Libertad slowly comes through to the cheer of the crowd, and all the rest of the tall ships come through followed by a flotilla of pleasure boats. I do not tire even in the rain of seeing the slow motion of the open sails across the skyline of skyscrapers, an anachronism, a tribute to freedom. At night as the fireworks explode lighting the Statue of Liberty, I can say, I, too, am American!