You may have recently read about my penchant for tears and my recent performance at the central passport office in downtown New York.
Here, my darlings, is part two. The epilogue, if you will.
I finally arrive at Heathrow airport with little B in pretty good shape. Sure, my armpits could part an entire sea of Egyptian protesters (“What is that smell? Can’t sit here idly and overthrow Mubarak. Gotta go home and get some air freshener…”) and my breath could bring an army to its knees, but my little angel managed to sleep for 2 hours and happily munched Cheerios for the rest of the flight.
I even managed to catch half a movie – “Conviction” – starring the wide toothed Hilary Swank and my underdog crush Sam Rockwell who I adore. It actually wasn’t half bad, save the horrendous Boston accents.
Anyway, post-flight, there we are, merrily queuing up to go through customs. It’s 9pm, the airport is relatively empty, and I’ve just given myself a giant pat on the back for surviving a transatlantic with my 10 month old.
Now, one might think that just because my daughter and I both have valid passports, all would be smooth sailing. After all, I am not on any wanted lists. Little BumbleB isn’t a front for a cocaine smuggling operation.
But in this age of wiretapping and black sites, I should have known better.
You see, both BumbleB and I are eligible for two passports – US and UK. I was born in the UK, but have American parents, and though B was born in the US she can also carry a UK passport because of me. Because I have basically been too lazy/crazed to renew my UK passport, I was traveling on my US passport. And because I was so proud of myself for getting B her UK passport, I’d put off getting her US one.
You can see where this is leading. I’m on my US passport and she’s on her UK one. Added to this equation is the fact that we have different last names on our passports, as I still retain my maiden name.
So there we are, finally in front of the nice customs agent, about to get our passports stamped, me very nicely explaining why we’re on passports from different countries.
And then comes the question.
“Um, madam, this is a bit unusual, really. Can you actually prove you’re her mother?”
Well, I can definitely show you my flabby vajajay if that helps at all. Just to prove I’ve actually been through childbirth, I think.
But then I turn red and start sweating, an old and frustrating response I have when I feel uncomfortable. I’m upset and feel like a bit of an idiot. And furiously try to turn back to my normal hue of sun-starved pale.
“I am her mother. I promise!” I say with a feeble smile.
“I’m sure you are madam, but with human trafficking being so high profile, you can understand our concern.”
“Of course,” I reply. The idea of my beautiful little baby currently strapped to my chest, being even remotely connected to some form of human chattel, is deeply upsetting.
“Do you have anything with both your names on it?”
I dig through my wallet. Yes! I have a health insurance card that does the trick. I hand it over.
“Right,” he says. “I’ll just go speak with my manager. Please take a seat.”
OK. Deep breath. I sit in front of the customs line.
I wait. And wait. Get more anxious. B is getting antsy. I’m starting to feel flustered now. Where is this man? Oh God…I’m sitting here with no passport in between two countries. Images from Midnight Express dance in my jetlagged brain.
He finally comes back. 20 minutes later. Asks me to approach.
First thing out of his mouth: “Madam, it can often take hours, sometimes days for a matter like this to be resolved.”
Great. Does that mean I’m going to be locked up while you decide if I’m a closet Scientologist?
I start to cry. This time, the tears really are real. I’m freaked, people. I have visions of cradling my little BumbleB in a ratty jail cell, being jeered at and clawed at by the other inmates, forced to feed B a diet of gruel and cozying up to hard-edged criminals to procure Cheerios on the black market. I wonder if they’ll give me the chance to make a phone call, like they do on TV. I suppose I’ll call my dad first. Let him know why he’ll never see me again.
“We’ll let you off this time,” he offers, cautioning “You can understand why we needed to do this, don’t you madam?”
“Yes. Of course,” I nod through real, hot tears that are streaming down my cheeks. I’m torn between feeling appreciative of the fact that he’s trying to protect my child, ashamed of my own negligence, and angry that I’ve been put through this.
And if you call me madam one more time, I think to myself, I’m going to take my imaginary pistol from inside my bra cup (which belongs to a formerly lactating MOTHER of this CHILD, thank you very much,) and blow your bleeping balls off.
I carry B to collect our luggage, tears slowly abating, gathering myself to greet my parents as I exit through the door that says “Nothing to Declare.”