Every 10 Years

It's that time again. Once every 10 years, I need a new passport. With a trip to a foreign country on the horizon and my passport expiring in a few months, it was time. I made an appointment at the Beverly Hills Public Library for "the works." Unfortunately "the works" didn't include a makeover, but it does include everything else for passport renewals -- reviewing and receiving the paperwork, taking passport photos and administering the oath. They are booked solid and the first available appointment was six weeks away. I grabbed it.

Meanwhile, I agonized over the passport forms at home. Some of the questions seemed like trick questions and some were straightforward. Birth date, city of birth, and first name were some of the easy ones. Others, like the question about "hair color," were more challenging. Hair color is one of the things that I can and do change quite frequently, and so I was confused. Did they mean What is your original hair color? or What is your hair color today? It is sometimes hard to remember what my original color was, but I wrote "brown." Today I am a blonde with highlights and low lights, and many different shades in-between. Each time I go to the hairdresser she adds a few more colors. Thankfully, my roots grow in "brown" and it has been a few months since I had my hair done, so my brown roots are showing prominently in my passport photo.

The next trick question was "weight." Did they want my goal weight -- the weight I hope to be when I travel? Or my current weight? I know that passport information is not wishful thinking, but I skimmed a few pounds off in anticipation of my planned diet.

The day of my scheduled passport appointment, I arrived at the library 15 minutes early. While I waited for the passport officer to arrive, another clerk began the process and took my photo. Everything is digitized now and the digital camera relays the image to the printer and it prints out. The clerk took several headshots and I was distressed because in each one I looked like a criminal having her mug shot taken. Passport photos are not airbrushed and I looked just like I remembered my grandmother. She passed away 50 years ago and she was old then. I chose the one in which I looked the least like my grandmother, but I don't think it resembled me either.

Children under the age of 16 receive passports that are valid for only five years. It makes sense. Our sons looked nothing like their infant photos when we renewed their passports at age 5. My new passport is the document that I will carry around and present to officials and others as I travel around the world for the next 10 years. I know that I will cringe each time I have to produce it and show it to airline attendants, border officials, customs agents and numerous other people around the world. I also realized that the next time I renew my passport and take a passport photo I would actually be my grandmother's age!