URBANA — It took more than three years, much travel to Chicago and some sorrow in the family, but 93-year-old Alicia Salazar is now a full-fledged American citizen.
So what's on the dinner table on this most American of days?
Rabbit. Two of them. For a gathering, "I buy the large ones," daughter Crisalida Thomassie said.
Salazar is from Peru and has traveled widely between the two countries since her daughter emigrated.
Thomassie said the naturalization service was "wonderful and emotional," with both of them, and sister Conseulo Salazar, breaking into tears.
Judge David Bernthal, who makes a show of the occasion in Urbana's Lincoln Square Village, stood for a photo with mother and daughter.
"My mother wanted to hold the flag, she was so proud," Thomassie said.
Thomassie came to the U.S. a year after she met her husband, Kenneth, an engineer on contract with Occidental Petroleum Co. in northern Peru.
They dated five or six times, and then he wanted to meet her family. Fortunately, everybody liked each other. By 1981, they were wed. Their three children are now grown.
When Salazar's husband died, she spent long stays in Peru as well as the cities where the Thomassies lived, unable to settle down, and Thomassie said she ought to choose a place to live.
The former owner of Marujita's Small World School, a Spanish-English center for children, Thomassie devoted hours where she drove her mother to Chicago for the grinding process of naturalization.
The process was further delayed when Thomassie had to take care of a sister, who eventually died.
Their mother also had serious health issues.
After her father's death, "I thought that the best way to bring my mother here to be secure was for her to become a citizen."
Salazar was not available for interview late Friday afternoon.
There were many forms and many delays, Thomassie said, and the wait dragged on — until three days ago.
Then, the all-important letter came in the mail.
Thomassie said her mother is "very happy, feels more secure. She loves this country."