copyright HMSO, via Wikipedia

For the last few weeks I’ve been without a passport. This situation might not worry most readers of AN but for me it’s a real stress. Being a foreigner is sometimes difficult enough without finding myself unable to leave.

Renewing a UK passport as a US resident is a tedious, persnickety, and expensive process. Here, for example, are the very, very specific instructions for the correct photographs. Naturally I followed them to the letter–even took the letter to Walgreen’s where the photos were taken. Naturally the UK consulate told me–two months into the process–that the pix were no good. (Though, naturally, they didn’t tell me what the problem was.) I got them done again. Brought them home. Measured them. They were 1 mm off. I got them done again. Sent them back to the consulate. Settled in to wait. Again.

I hadn’t realised how tense I was until FedEx showed up at the door with a brown envelope and my new passport. I ripped it open, checked it carefully, and clutched it to me. I don’t care that the photo is ugly! I don’t care that there’s a RFID chip stuck on it! I don’t care that it cost me nearly $300! Suddenly I’m a citizen of the world again. If Bad Things Happen, I can escape. Or, hey, if I win the Mega Millions, I can go on holiday. And, wow, the pictures of birds on the inner pages are gorgeous…

I wish there were a programme to get a new passport without giving the old one up. I loathe and detest being without one. It means I can’t go to England. It means I’m trapped. It makes me feel like a stranger in a strange land. It creates horrible echoes from the past–a long story that I’m not willing to tell today about Kelley and I being stranded on separate continents for a while not long after we first met, a postal strike, a government passport office strike, illness… Shudder.

But, hey, that was then, this is now. I have my passport. I’m good to go. Paradoxically, all I want to do is wrap my arms around my life and stay put.