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Monday, April 7, 2008

Who am I....really?




On Saturday when the letter from the U.S. Department of State arrived notifying me that my passport application was denied, I thought it was a joke. A cruel one at that. But, perhaps warranted. A few years back, Carmen played a magnificently genius, well-thought out and superbly executed similar type of joke on my unsuspecting brother-in-law. It has reached epic proportions. It is now a legend. It has a permanent place of honor in our family history book. Every time we get together, that story seems to surface. Inevitably, my brother-in-law hangs his head in disbelief....that he fell for such a prank. Despite my brother-in-law's embarrassment---it elicits roaring laughter---the kind where tears flow. Each time it's told, it manages to put Carmen one step closer to being crowned the grand master of illusion. In another few years, I suspect he will become the undisputed champion of "pulling off a good one". There will be no living with that man.

Okay. Back to the matter at hand. Since the passport denial seemed so absurd, I thought that maybe....just maybe....this was my brother-in-law's way of getting back. I wasn't so sure why he would play the joke on me when it was 100% Carmen who devised, planned and executed the notorious scam. But, I figured....what better way to torture a man than to make his wife completely miserable? So, given that thought and knowing how my brother-in-law's mind might work when it comes to that.....it made total sense to me that he could be behind the passport farce. And, if he was.....he would soon be crowned the king of punking! Because this was no ordinary prank. There were tears. My ship was not coming in. It would have been a wonderful miracle if it would have been my brother-in-law. But, no such luck. The post mark was Charleston, SC. It was the U.S. Government.


We were in the middle of running the typical Saturday morning errands and had just stopped home to pick up some lunch and switch cars. As I was bantering with Carmen and Toni about possible lunch menus, I spotted the very official looking envelope on the kitchen counter. Here's what it said---in a nutshell....they can't establish my identity.....sorry. Since they don't know who I am..even though I provided the documents they asked for---they just can't let me leave the country. They went on to say that if I can establish who I am and if I can provide sufficient evidence to prove who I am in the next 90 days, my application can be reviewed. In other words...they were asking.....who are you Judi?


Now, here's the part of the story that made me suspect my brother-in-law was toying with me. In the letter, they provided a long list of documents that I could enter into evidence to prove my identity. At the top of the list....."School yearbook photograph with your name and photo, also with the school's name and year that it was issued"......and another....."Newspaper/Magazine articles with your name and photo along with the newspaper's name and date of publication" and still another....."A traffic ticket". See what I mean? These items would establish my identity beyond a shadow of a doubt? Not the birth certificate that I dutifully sent in? Not the photo copy of my drivers' license that the passport guy at the post office made? I was born. I drive. Those are facts. But, my high school year book picture? What does that prove? That I had bad taste when it came to hairdos? All I could do was wipe away the tears that were trickling down my cheeks. Who am I?




Answering the "who am I?" question for the federal government took me into the corners of the basement and into that huge box my father gave me when he moved a few years back. My year book picture.....no, not the formal one....the one of me as editor of the newspaper. A happy, smiling young girl....with all of my newspaper mates around me. I looked alive and real. I saw my own children as I looked at that young Judi. My nose is my daughter's nose. I never realized that. Ever. My old birth certificate.....I saw my mother's signature. The loopy cursive that I haven't seen in more than 35 years. I dragged my fingers across her signature.....thinking about the day she wrote her name there. A young woman who had just given birth to her first child. A happy woman. A healthy woman. Even her signature can bring me to tears....all these years later. And, there was my father's angled, terse writing. The penmanship of a man who was born to write left-handed but forced by his nuns to write with his right hand. The very same strokes as he uses today. Yet, they were from a man almost 50 years younger. A man who just became a father. And, there was something called a "birth record"......with my mom's thumb print and my little footprint. My mother was probably holding me in her arms as they placed my foot on that ink pad, I thought to myself. And, I'll bet she fretted over washing her thumb before touching me. She was like that. Tucked inside an envelope was my baptismal certificate. The signatures of my dear aunt and my beloved uncle. Many years ago....when they were young and fresh and filled with dreams and hopes. Both of their signatures are the same today as they were then. They sign their names to my birthday cards and Christmas cards. They still send them. I'm lucky like that.

You know, if it wasn't for the fact that this whole passport business might screw up something very important to me....it was actually a very wonderful experience. Touching the past and seeing the past in the future was a a gift. Tracing my finger across my mother's signature. Seeing my daughter's nose. Imagining the young faces of people who are still....50 years later....in my life. Gifts I would have never received if the U.S. Government wouldn't have dubbed me unidentifiable.

So, who am I? A girl with a Lapband on a journey. It's still that simple. But, the most important thing is that my journey started long before this. In fact, my journey is just the continuation of the journey that was started on the day my parents signed my birth certificate. That's who I am.....really.

Got that Mr or Ms U.S. Department of State?

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Judi,
I know who you are! You are a rockstar of a writer! I read this last night before I went to bed and I dreamed about it! Wow. You really do touch me girlfriend even when I am sleeping!
I hope you get this passport issue figured out. I have faith you will.

Jen

MariB said...

Judi,
I almost cried when I read about your passport. I know this cruise means so much to you. Please let us know when it is fixed because we care!

FYI: Our family is now all Lapbanded as of yesterday!

Good luck!
MariB