Thursday, October 16, 2008

Passports for six, please.

I feel like I should make a public apology to everybody who tried to get a passport in Charlottesville today, around 11:30am. By the time we were finished processing all six of our applications, there was a very, very long line outside the passport office.

We had to take the kids out of school in order to get our passports. Back in--oh, July--I picked up the applications from the post office, and was told that all six of us had to appear together in order to get our applications processed. It took until to today to achieve a day in which Jon and I were both free *and* the post office was open.

Sarah Palin got some flack for not getting a passport until last year, and I felt sorry for her as she squirmed under Katie Couric's sophisticated questioning. I have little in common with Sarah Palin, but I can relate to her on this issue. The only thing I regret about my life so far is that I have never traveled outside the US and Canada. In high school, my French class took a trip to France over Easter vacation, but my parents wouldn't let me go. My senior year in college, my French teacher offered me an opportunity to live in Paris for a month and teach English to high school students there. She would have put me up with relatives of hers in Paris, so all I needed was a plane ticket, which I couldn't afford and my parents refused to pay for. So I became a nanny in Buffalo instead. Bitter? Yes, I'm afraid I am. Soon after that I got married and produced four babies in six years and thus international travel became wildly impractical for years and years thereafter.

Now, our plan is to take a major family vacation in the interval between my graduation from nursing school and the time I actually start working as a nurse. It will be expensive, but I feel it will be money well spent, if only for the fact that my children will never be the only ones at a cocktail party who've never been to Europe. Our first plan was to go to Ireland and rent a cottage for a month and use it as a base for exploring the British Isles. Then I worried Ireland would be rainy and depressing and decided that Morocco and Egypt would be lovely and sunny, but friends dissuaded us so we settled on Turkey. Somehow we got soured on Turkey and chose Croatia, which I still think would be ideal--Roman ruins and beaches along the Adriatic, but now Jon is saying he wants to go to Ireland, so we are back to our original plan, except that we might go to Rome instead.

So the applications are on their way to the State Department, with one of my personal checks stapled to each, plus a $150 fee to the Postal Service. I've had this task on my to do list for months.

There's the issue of the passport photos. There is a clear quality ratio between our passport photos and the CVS employee who took them. Miss G looks cute--she was the last one of us to get her photo taken, weeks after the rest of us had done it. Jon and Mad Scientist made their own trip to CVS one day and they both look, if not exactly gorgeous, at least not embarrassing to themselves. Drama Queen, Mr. McP and I all had our photos taken by the same CVS clerk, and she instantly, although unintentionally, provided me with a new way to amuse people, because all I have to do is produce these three pictures and whoever sees them erupts into hysterical laughter. Poor Drama Queen. She is, in real life, an extraordinarily pretty fifteen year old--even though it's her mother who says it--but her passport photo is certainly the least flattering picture ever taken of her. Mr. McP fared even worse and it is his photo that makes my friends laugh the hardest. In trying to adjust the photo to conform to regulations, the CVS clerk distorted his face to the point that he looks like he has fetal alcohol syndrome.

As for myself--remember when I complained that my new driver's license photo made me look like a sex-starved, uptight middle manager named "Kathy" who lives in a dreary apartment by the interstate and who spends her evenings listening to the ticking of her biological clock? In my passport photo I am "Cheryl" who is out of jail on a work release program, lives in the Sunnyvale Trailer Court and spends all her money on lottery tickets and cigarettes.


  1. No one has a good passport photos. Even my girls' photos are awful and I generally think they're pretty photogenic.

    I'm very excited about your trip!

  2. how about greece? the greek islands are pretty amazing!

  3. Hey Cheryl -- didn't I see you at the Dunkin' Donuts on 29N?

    Just kidding.

    True story: I got my passport last December and since have been to London, India and Germany.

    Once you get the bug, you will go everywhere.

    Bon voyage.

  4. I feel your pain. My passport photo was from 9 years ago, before I lost 40 Lbs. I look like a Pumpkin with bangs!

    An elderly friend of mine just returned from Galway. That is where her family was from. She loved it so much,seeing her grandparents houses and gravesites for the first time.

    She says Ireland is so beautiful that if she ever goes back there, she is never coming home.

  5. I love your writing.

    How exciting! World traveling! Your life shall be ever changed now.

  6. Oh, that's awesome. I love how you've given identities to the "strangers" popping up in your pictures. I'm the queen of unflattering photo IDs, including a DL photo with me 9 months pregnant.

    Your trip sounds fantastic in all of its variations.