My new USA passport arrived in the mail last week. Prior to its arrival, I had a moment of panic because it had been over a month since I sent my old passport in with the request for a renewal. The panic set in when I checked my "status" on-line and discovered that there was no official status to be found. Did I not put proper postage on the darn thing? Will it even come before I change my address at the end of the month? And what if it doesn't come? Because I was heading out of town for the weekend, I decided to give myself the weekend to marinate on what to do next. I figured I would eventually contact a friend at the State Department to see what's what. Fortunately, it arrived by mail the next day. Problem solved. No favor to call in. Crisis over.
My new passport is crisp, clean and extremely stiff. And I love it. The edges are not battered by 10 years of wear and tear. The red and blue of the waving American flag makes me feel especially tingly. There are no sweat stains from traveling through sketchy parts of the Global South with it firmly placed in my bra for safe keeping. The threading is not coming undone, and there are no malicious markings made by a female IDF soldier who once threatened to deport me for the fact that I left Israel at one exit and entered through another. My new passport is a fresh, open book with a dark haired young woman smiling back from Page 1. She's fresh-faced and ready for what lies ahead. Fortunately, the picture ended up being a good one--my international travel representative looks young, smiling and genuinely happy. Of course, my hair is everywhere and half of the picture is taken up by my teeth alone, but this is nothing new...
The other night at dinner, I reported my momentary passport crisis to a friend of mine who responded by asking what I did with my old passport? When I told her that I sent it to the State Department in exchange for a new one, she asked why I didn't just lie and say that I lost it so that I could keep the old one for posterity. I simply shrugged and told her that I didn't need the old passport any more, and that I was ready for a fresh start. She gasped:
"But what about having it to show your grandchildren all of the stamps from your life of travel?"
I shrugged and told her that I just didn't consider it a big deal. After all, I have plenty of pictures and letters, writings and so forth. I also don't travel just to have a stamp to show off to others. The destinations themselves have never mattered as much to me as the journey within them, and, most especially, within me. Are my grandchildren really going to care? And are they really going to want to see the picture of me as a 19 year old, half stoned college kid who didn't think to wash her face for the first passport photo? Personally, I hope to leave a better legacy. (And I always hated that picture.)
I unapologetically replied by telling her that I'm not much of a "keeper of things", even passports. I tire far too easily when it comes to hauling around baggage. And yes, I am an addict of newness--fresh pages, fresh travels, new beginnings and fresh starts...
But here's to the next ten years of country stamps and travel visas, and maybe a little bit of posterity--