On passports. And decades.

There's something bittersweet about turning in your old passport. Of course there's the requisite nostalgia that bubbles up as you thumb through the worn pages, suddenly recalling the Mexican restaurant with the killer salsa made tableside, or the Olympic stadium in Sarajevo turned hastily created cemetery during the war. You remember the painstaking days spent simply memorizing the Turkish word for thank you and the Pretty Woman-esque shopping orgy through Paris when the exchange rate was so good we didn't bother to appreciate it nearly enough.

But the hardest part to me is looking at the empty pages. The ones with no stamps at all. The ones that might have been filled with ink from Thailand and Greece, Costa Rica and Japan, and a visit or two to see your best friend in Tanzania, had you only found the time/the money/the vacation days/the inclination.

And of course there's that whole business of parting with the photo of yourself ten years younger. Ten years glow-ier.

Maybe the infuriatingly bureaucratic and inefficient system at the will-call window at the passport office is simply some evil genius plan to distract you from becoming sentimental, to keep you from throwing yourself on the carcass of your used passport like a mourning Greek widow, as they punch those two holes in the cover and stamp it CANCELLED.

Yeah, that's it.

We're off for a little trip tomorrow, just for a few days. A lot of fun, a little work, a whole lot of sand. And a new stamp in the new passport.

It's a fresh start. Ten new years to fill those pages. Starting now.


Blogger Jessie said...

I thankfully lost my passport then many, many years later found it in a briefcase along with my soc sec card and marriage license. Oops! So while it is no longer valid, I still get to treasure the memories.

12/2/08, 10:50 PM  
Blogger Backpacking Dad said...

I like getting stamps from Canada.

12/2/08, 11:16 PM  
Blogger mothergoosemouse said...

Personally, I'm looking forward to getting a new passport photo. Thanks for the reminder to renew before it becomes an emergency.

Safe travels!

12/2/08, 11:17 PM  
Blogger Lady M said...

I thought you got to keep old passports. I'll have to check whether I still have them or if I'm hallucinating.

Enjoy your trip!

12/2/08, 11:57 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

See, I'm all jealous because I don't even have a passport. When I went to Mexico we didn't need one. That's the extent of my out-of-USA travels.

Now I'm all sad.

12/3/08, 12:33 AM  
Blogger Donna said...

Yep, you can keep your old passport. They'll give it back after they cancel it, if you ask. You're right - it's fun to look at all of those stamps and visas. I'm currently working off my multiple-entry Chinese visa. And if they fix their political problems in Thailand, I'll be getting my first Thai stamp in a couple of weeks. Can't wait to get out of this nasty Beijing air...

12/3/08, 2:02 AM  
Blogger Mahlers On Safari said...

Before the kids my passport was my most prized possession. (Not that the kids are my possession, but you get the idea.) When asked what I would pull out of a burning house it wasn't the cat or photo albums - it was the passport!

I completely understand your melancholy and hope that you will fill many pages in your new passport. Hopefully it will include at least one FULL PAGE visa from Tanzania and two stamps that take up considerable space on a second page!

Enjoy your trip!

12/3/08, 3:48 AM  
Blogger Marinka said...

I love this post. I was so happy when I realized that they mail back my kids' cancelled passports and that I can keep them forever. Unless I misplace them, that is. Enjoy the sand!

12/3/08, 7:30 AM  
Blogger Chicky Chicky Baby said...

There's far too many empty pages in my passport. *sigh* I blame the kids.

Have fun!

12/3/08, 8:02 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

As a fellow writer I know you can somehow find the joy in a blank sheet of paper!?
Let your journey begin!

12/3/08, 9:05 AM  
Blogger Fairly Odd Mother said...

Yeah, there are way too many empty pages in my passport. But the photo is cute and 8 years younger.

Have a lovely trip. I can't remember: is this trip the first passport one for the girls?

12/3/08, 9:54 AM  
Blogger Ali said...

i wish i had more stamps on my passport. the dinky us/canada ones are NOT exciting (no matter what backpacking dad says. hahah)

12/3/08, 10:00 AM  
Anonymous Travel Savvy Mom said...

I have never liked my passport photos at the time of taking, but looking back? They look great.

Have a fun trip. Think about reporting back to me on the place, digs, and so on...I'd love it.

12/3/08, 11:00 AM  
Blogger the new girl said...

Have fun and be good.

12/3/08, 11:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love how you look at this!!! I have only traveled one place where a passport was needed.... :(

12/3/08, 1:50 PM  
Blogger My Kids' Mom said...

I had my passport stolen the day before leaving Europe and after a year of traveling. It was a pain to get it replaced so I could come home, but the worst to me was that after a year of using it as a source of memories, they were suddenly gone. My new passport photo is one of a really tired and pissed off woman. Brings back its own memories I guess.

12/3/08, 4:15 PM  
Blogger Issas Crazy World said...

I hope you guys have a blast. Sand, sun, mojitos...man I'd kill to sit in the sand right now. It's about 12 degrees here.

12/3/08, 6:36 PM  
Blogger motherbumper said...

Have fun and I hope you get lots of sand in fun places.

12/3/08, 8:25 PM  
Blogger Renee said...

Have fun and don't you dare be good!

12/3/08, 9:02 PM  
Anonymous Amanda said...

I have my old passport. It actually expired this year. I don't think I'll be needing a new anytime soon.

Have lots of fun!

12/4/08, 10:08 AM  
Blogger Wicked Step Mom said...

I hope that you find the time, money, inclination and the vacation days to fill out all the pages. Have a good trip!!

12/4/08, 10:17 AM  
Blogger Homevalley said...

I just went through this a few months ago! Had just enough time to get one new stamp in my disturbingly blank book, and then got married - now I have to get ANOTHER blank passport. I feel your pain. Have a wonderful trip!

12/4/08, 12:12 PM  
Blogger Tracey said...

Heh. I have never had a passport. The only times I have left the country were to Canada and Jamaica back in the day when you didn't need a passport...

12/4/08, 7:54 PM  
Blogger RenĂ©e aka Mekhismom said...

I agree with you, I look at the empty pages of my current passport and wish for the days of my youth when I had to add extra pages!

12/4/08, 9:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Go get 'em, girl.

12/6/08, 2:00 PM  
Blogger Daisy said...

Mine had many empty pages when i traded it in for a new one. I didn't really care about the picture this time; not like I did when I was 18 and applied for the first time.

12/6/08, 10:41 PM  
Blogger BOSSY said...

Totally. You nailed it. (Bossy originally typed "you MAILED it", and come to think of it, maybe you did!)

12/7/08, 12:14 AM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

You guys get to keep your passports for ten years? We only get five. Which is just enough time to do pretty much nothing globe-trotty except attend conferences and check out the *other* side of Niagara Falls...

12/7/08, 9:45 AM  

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