Thursday, 1 March 2012

US Consulate 2012, Joseph's overcoat and me.

Yesterday I made my quasi-annual trip to Paris to visit the Americans. At one point, I actually dreaded the Consulate because of a run-in with a rude French woman who poissoned the American atmosphere for me with her French administrative ways. But now that I have two kids, the Consulate seems to be old hat (although I'm always scared they'll refuse me a passport because I'm not American enough or something).

Since my mom's visiting, I turned it into a family outing, dragging tow kids and my mom down to Paris along with everything possible to prove Suzanne's American-ness as well as my own. when we arrived at the security gate, the guards emptied our bags with smiles and jokes. I began to wonder if they had been briefed on American courtesy and customer service. Max was not amused when they confiscated the lollypops from my bag and told him they were going to eat them. After they'd checked us out, they said "Welcome to the United States" at which point I realized that, actuality it technically was the US. Suzanne asked why there were guards and I tried to explain in 5 year old terms about global terrorism. As we walked into the Consulate waiting room, Suzanne asked me in her not-so-soft 5 year old voice if Obama was dead.

While we waited, Suzanne, my mom and I played "I spy" while Max slept in his stroller. "I spy something brown," said Suzanne. "The man's hair? The woman's shoes?" "No, Mommy! It's Obama," she said as she pointed to the picture of Obama looming over the Consulate's waiting room alongside a huge TV tuned into CNN and a picture of Hillary Clinton.  I tried to explain to Suzanne all about Hillary Clinton but I don't think she got it. I also tried to explain what the Consulate was (ie Obama's friends in France) but she didn't seem to care.

Once I'd given all the paperwork to the nice French man who processed our papers, I went back to sit mulling over the display of IRS documents. I eventually stood up and grabbed a copy for a rainy day(any readers know about filing taxes?). Interesting indeed but for another time.

When the consular officer finally called us over, he took my paperwork, including the consent form my husband phinageled the Mairie to sign (note: the city hall will no longer sign documents for you like they used to do. Before, they would notarize things for you. now, they can only notarize your signature but not the content of the document). I had to hold up my right hand (I held up my left) and take an oath that this little girl clinging to me was indeed my daughter. The officer then asked Suzanne if I was really her mother. His way of asking was so nice, but yet so serious. It made me realize that he was doing a security check. He then asked if I had an pictures of Suzanne since her expired passport had a 6 week old on it and now there was an almost 6 year old standing before him. He nicely explained to me that you can already see certain facial traits from a young age. Luckily Suzanne passed the test and he even called her adorable.

After the consulate, the kids chased pigeons in the Tuillerie in a very non-French (read noisy way). As my kids ran around roaring at the pigeons, I had a Pamela Druckermann moment realizing that all the other kids around us were composed and quiet.

We then moved on to the Marais to eat falafel, visit the Jewish bakery and the Jewish bookstore where Max pointed to most of the books telling me he had them at home. I was surprised to see Sammy Spider in French and even more surprised to see Joseph Had a Little Overcoat, my favorite book from when I was little.

We spent the rest of the afternoon in a park watching the kids play. In fact, the day was more American than Parisian.

And as I got off the train in Lille last night and my kids ran down the platform to meet their father, I realized something: this is a really cool life.

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