When my husband, an Englishman, and I finally got together romantically it was after eight years of friendship, and years of joking about getting married for a green card. But now we were serious—in love and unsure of when we would next see each other. I was in graduate school for social work and he was working in London, neither of us had the finances to support an international long-distance relationship. So in order to be together, we ferociously started planning a wedding…two weeks after we started dating.
Six months later were married in a tiny chapel, built in 1240, in the middle of a rural farm town in Arbuthnott, Scotland, the day before New Years 2016. It was a fairy tale. It couldn’t have been more perfect, and more unexpected. I flew home to America, alone, one week after our wedding, walking through the citizens’ line of the airport without my new husband.
We had a 6-month wait, at least, ahead of us for a marriage visa—six months of writing back and forth, Skype calls and battling a time difference. I had been under the false impression that once married, we could be together. Our lawyer informed us that things were changing with immigration—the waits were longer and the laws were shifting rapidly under the Trump administration.
Ben came over for a visit in August, roughly seven months after submitting our paperwork. He had quit his job in London, starting to work freelance, prepping for what we thought would be him coming over permanently after an interview. And then our lawyer broke the news. Things were backed up and it would be another six months of waiting. We went home devastated, trying to figure out what we were going to do, and how we could afford another six months apart. The next day our lawyer emailed that we could sign an adjustment of status, a way for Ben to stay, but he wouldn’t be able to leave the country or work legally. So he stayed, leaving belongings back in London.
Cait & Ben on their Wedding Day (Arbuthnott, Scotland)
We needed something financially, and we needed something mentally to bring us hope in the waiting process. Earlier that month I had sent Ben a silly rhyming story, based on my favorite Rumi poem Guest House. The premise is that our feelings come and go, but they are just visitors passing through. Ben loved it and suggested we turn my poem into a children’s book. Ben found an illustrator in Cairo, Egypt, and formatted and color graded all of the original watercolor paintings.
I am in private practice as a mental health therapist, helping families and children process through their feelings, and I knew the message in this book could help others—after all, the characters in the book were helping us. Through writing the book, we were able to find peace in the moment and accept how totally out of control we were with the immigration process swirling around us. We felt the roosters of rage, and the gorillas of grief. But we also had the dogs of delight—all characters from our book.
I acknowledge whole-heartedly we were very fortunate in our experience of the immigration process. We got to be together, and we had the means through debt to be able to afford a lawyer. But it was undeniably stressful—constantly on edge, waiting to hear. Seventeen months after submitting our paperwork, Ben finally got an interview and a green card.
We made it. We are a happily married couple, with a book, The Goose & The Guest House. This thing that we wrote to help children process their feelings, but which ended up helping us deal with immigration. We are so excited to be sharing this book with the world, and hoping that it helps other families as much as it helped us.
“This Goose is grateful to each feeling that may appear,
For in his journey one thing is clear…
Each guest was sent as a guide from beyond,
And of each traveler, he is especially fond.”
Author: Cait Allison
Related Article: “5 Things to Know Before Writing Your Children’s Book.”