In case you don’t know me in real life, this is a pretty accurate representation:
I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t crave approval. I live for hearing “good job!” or “nicely done!” or the ever-elusive “perfect! I wouldn’t change a thing!”
It’s actually really hard to need that external validation all the time. I’m so paralyzed at the thought of not doing something right that it can be really difficult for me to complete necessary tasks. This has been a challenge since I was a young child; I still remember being almost two weeks late handing in a book report, because I was so daunted by my desire to get a perfect mark that I couldn’t start the work. (When I finally did hand it in, the teacher wrote “99%” at the top, crossed it out in red, and wrote “-15% for lateness”. I’m sure she thought it would be motivating. Instead, 30 years later, I’m still upset about it.)
Now I’m 38 years old, I have a university degree, and I’m literate, numerate, and I still cling to the Oxford comma with both hands.
And I am always waiting for An Authority Figure to grade my work.
Which brings me to today, and the passport office.
We are taking the boys to Orlando this winter. We’re going to Disney World and Universal Studios (for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, natch). It’s a bigger, crazier, more over-the-top trip than we’ve ever done with them, and I’m equal parts excited and terrified. Even though we aren’t leaving for more than six months, I’m already in full-on preparation & planning mode, as if there will be An Authority Figure with a Checklist standing at the gates to the Magic Kingdom and dispensing rewards for people who planned better than everyone else.
None of us has traveled outside the country in years. The last time was spring of 2011, when Michael went to Vegas for a long weekend. Every other trip has been between here and Toronto, usually by car. We haven’t needed passports, and so we haven’t bothered to get them. I haven’t had one since 2007, and I’ve never had one in my married name. Any time we mused about getting them – usually so we could think about taking the route through the US to drive to Ontario – we figured out the price tag and agreed it wasn’t necessary.
All of this meant that two months ago, I went to the post office and picked up five passport applications.
I brought them home and moved them from place to place in my kitchen for at least a week (might have been more like two). I worried about something getting spilled on them. I fretted about what was inside those bland envelopes. Every few days Michael said “we should apply for those passports” and I’d blow him off, because how do you explain sure, application forms are right over there, at least I assume what’s in the envelopes, I’m too scared to look.
Finally one night I got up the courage. I got two new pens. I made a cup of tea. I sat down at the dining room table, took a few deep breaths, and opened one of the envelopes.
First up: birth certificates. I had mine of course, and Michael’s. We had Harry’s long form certificate. We had a short form for Ron, and nothing for George. (Third children always get shafted). I grumbled, opened up my computer, and started the process of ordering George’s from Vital Statistics. As I waited for the page to load, I looked again at the birth certificate requirements… and realized I needed to order a long form for Ron, too. The short form only has the child’s registration number, date of birth, and full name – not the names of the parents. More grumbling. I placed the order for two birth certificates, only having a mild panic as soon as I clicked “submit” when I became convinced that I’d somehow gotten George’s birth year wrong.
The screen told me it would take ten business days to process my order, so the kids’ applications ground to a halt.
OK. Fine. Swallowed another mouthful of tea, moved on to the adult applications. Miraculously, I had everything for Michael’s. Things were looking up! I started mine, and realized I needed our marriage certificate. Not the fancy piece of paper they give you at the ceremony, which is apparently just for show and not a legally-binding document. No, I needed to order the official certificate from… guess where… Vital Statistics.
Much grumbling and cursing, 45 minutes, and $120 later, I had nothing to show for my efforts but a thumping headache. I called it quits for the night.
It was a full three weeks later when the certificates finally arrived.
There followed another week or so of ignoring the applications before it finally got silly. Our preferred guarantor, my sister (who wishes to be called “Hermione” on the blog, so there you go – she’s Hermione now) is leaving the country for three months – we HAD to get it done. It was getting embarrassing.
This weekend we finally filled them out. I was a wreck. I double-checked everybody’s phone numbers. I talked to myself. I printed in neat block capitals. When I accidentally missed a digit in George’s birth certificate registration number, I freaked out until I realized I’d left enough space to squeeze it in. I sweated and cursed and yelled and reminded myself to weigh and measure the children.
Then Hermione came to fill out her part, and since she’s just like me she did all the same things. Block caps. Muttering. Pausing after minor mistakes (“I wrote a lowercase ‘e’! NOOOOO!”) to take some deep breaths. I spent that half hour obsessively examining the passport photos and wondering if they’d get rejected because Harry looks like a juvenile delinquent.
This morning we gathered everything up and went to the passport office. I had to parallel park. I am not good at parallel parking. I did it – not perfectly, though, Michael had to fix it after we had a meter. Then when we were walking toward the building, there was no exterior signage indicating “Passport Office”, so I had a momentary panic about that. While sitting in the waiting area, I noticed a measuring tape fastened to the wall. OH MY GOD I FORGOT TO WEIGH AND MEASURE THE KIDS WHAT THE FUCK WHY DID I FORGET THAT FUUUUUUUUUUUCK. Michael looked at me, perplexed, and said “can’t you just estimate? They’re all going to be taller and heavier by the time we travel, anyway.”
Damn reasonable husbands.
We got to the counter in due time and I handed everything over. My hands were shaking. I apologized for bringing five applications at once. I said “please tell me if I’ve forgotten anything” and “are the pictures OK?” and “I can’t believe I forgot to sign that spot, I’m so sorry!”
Bless his patient heart, the passport clerk either has anxiety himself or is close to someone who does, because he was absolutely lovely. He put me at ease. He praised how neatly and correctly I’ll filled everything out. He thanked me for having all the correct supporting documentation. He practically gave me a gold star, and it sounds very silly, I suppose, but he took something that was a scary thing I was dreading and turned it into a victory for me. The passports will be in the mail no later than June 21st, and I was fairly skipping when we left.
Now, to just spend two weeks worrying that Canada Post will lose the passports!