November 13, 2010


Making me feel quite old seasoned, I now have a child who has had his passport long enough for the thing to expire, or at least it will be expired before we need to use it again.  Apparently, they can no longer see the resemblance.
So, yesterday we dumped our two youngest on poor Alisa and Kate (thanks for your servants' hearts, girls), and boarded a plane with one child for the first time in 3 1/2 years.  My how EASY it is to travel with only one kid in tow, especially if that kid is potty-trained, meal-trained, manners-trained, and can occupy himself with the flight safety manual for the entire hour that it takes to reach the nearest U.S. Consulate.  We ate lunch at a recommended spot, The Sultan, where we thoroughly enjoyed a plate of Musaka that reminded us of the Sudanese food our refugee neighbors in Memphis had made for us in payment for pouring them a new front walk back in 2005.  Consequently, Bright's new passport, when it arrives, will bear the image of him chewing a bite of Turkish Naan.  At least he was chewing with his mouth closed (good boy!)
Our trip to the U.S. Consulate, per Daniel's genius suggestion, doubled as Bright's November field trip.  Two birds with one stone is a favorite idiom of mine these days, particularly when it comes to outings with small children in foreign countries.  We observed our surroundings, talked about the purpose of passports, and practiced reverent behavior and patience while waiting in lines.  Most importantly, we discussed what it means to be an American.

To pass the time in the waiting room, and because I was tired of looking at the images of Obama and Oprah that were framed on the walls and embossed on the covers in the magazine rack,  I picked up a local newspaper that was printed in English.  The cover story was about the guy who brought the tainted milk scandal to light.  He was a national hero at the time, at least among the people, because his picketing and speaking out saved countless children worldwide from being harmed by the tainted milk products, even if it was too late for his own child.  Now, however, he is being thrown in jail for 2 1/2 years for "disrupting the peace."  On his way out of the courtroom, he was hollering that he had done nothing wrong, that he was not being treated fairly.  Of course he had done nothing wrong, and of course he was not being treated fairly; he lives in a nation where people have no rights.  This man's fate is a warning to others who might be considering speaking out against injustice. 

At one point during our wait in line, we looked down together, Bright and I, at the tiled floor beneath our feet, and honored a moment of thankfulness for our having American feet that are welcome on the tile of American floors.  Then, as I squatted beside him, we looked across the quiet room to the Eagle on the top of the of the American flag. 
"The Bald Eagle is our national bird," I told him, "because it is free and has no predators."
"Do you remember The Pledge of Allegiance?"  I asked him.
He put his pudgy right hand over his heart and we recited the words together.  I got through the whole thing without crying until we came to the end...

"with liberty and justice for all."