I am absolutely, legitimately my father’s daughter. This isn’t a hard fact to understand. And yet, try to prove something like your birthright with a few slips of paper and you’d think it was the most complicated thing in the world.
Many people, British people, have told me that applying for my British Citizenship is a sweet and simple process. In fact, it’s so easy that I’ve been putting it off for years, figuring that when the right time came and I actually needed to apply for some reason, I would, and the whole matter would be settled. I’ve planned this out for a long time. The day I receive my British passport I will either drive to Santa Monica to the King’s Head Pub, or to Shakespeare’s in San Diego, depending on my whereabouts.
Because my father never bothered to “Americanize” himself, I have this very blessed opportunity open to me. To become a dual citizen of both the US and the UK is golden status. Ask anyone. I could practically live anywhere I want with this kind of paperwork in my pocket. Thanks to the former, greedy imperialism of the British, and the globalization and overall domineering attitude of our good ol’ U.S. of A., I am looking at top tier of the caste system.
But only if I can prove it.
When I finally realized that being a citizen of the European Union was something that I actually really wanted (who doesn’t want to live in Paris or Amsterdam anyway?) I took the initiative to print out the papers and begin. And at first I thought, what the hell’s the big deal? So I have to fill out the application, and mail in some official documents, dig up passports, take photos, pay the stupid fee, and voila!
Voila is right until I realized my parents have the ability to be real screw-ups sometimes.
Sorry mom, but it’s just true. I hate to rat the girl out. She’s a lovely woman and a real joy, I mean it, but when it comes to getting shit done I think I’d rather watch paint dry.
The first major issue with my application occurred over the summer when I went down to the County Registrar’s office in San Diego. I stood in line for over an hour, stuck between two screaming babies and a pair of underage teenagers applying for a marriage license, only to get to the front of the line and find out my parents marriage certificate was no where to be found.
“There’s no such file here,” the woman behind the lacquer mahogany desk states. “You’re sure they were married in San Diego?”
“Yes, I’m sure,” I say impatiently. “They got married in Balboa Park. It poured rain. They had to move the reception into the Prado because the rain wouldn’t stop and people were getting wet. I’m absolutely sure!”
“Well, maybe the paperwork is somewhere else. Where did you say they live?”
So yes, fast forward to me at a different appointment in a different line in L.A., waiting for another hour or so, only to pay extra for rush delivery on the certificate because my application was running out of processing time. But at least it was done, or so I thought.
More speedily than before, the application is sent back a second time. (Apparently this next mistake went unnoticed on the first go-around.) My birth certificate isn’t good enough because it was issued more than three months after my birth. Meaning what? Oh, only that I could very well have been adopted by Mr. Philip Hurn, and that this whole citizenship business is a total scam.
All right, so now we enter the complete disarray that is Kaiser Medical Hospital in Los Angeles, where, someplace among the stacks and hoards and absolute mountains of paper, lies my birth records. We make a request and wait, for months, for them to peel through the piles.
Meanwhile, in addition to applying to grad school, I’ve decided to apply to teach English in France. It’s a decision made on a whim, and a very attractive-looking “Plan B.” But to add to the stress, the application is due in five days. That is, five days from the moment I decide to apply. Sure that dual-citizenship will give me an edge and make me a more attractive candidate, I slip into the beginning of my essay that I am both American and British. Gold baby.
Yesterday morning the phone rings and I miss it because I’m making pancakes for me and my roommate. I notice the 323 (L.A.) area code, and when I check the message I’m completely surprised. A nice, young man named Rashad has called from Kaiser to tell me that he’s found my medical records and would I kindly call him back so he can get them to me as soon as possible. One step closer to the goal, things are finally falling into place.
Rashad and I have a pleasant chat. He tells me it’s better to come pick up the records than put them in the mail—which I totally believe based on personal experience (another story for another time). Just for kicks I ask Rashad to read me the information on the birth record.
“I want to make sure I’m not adopted,” I joke.
The record is dated June 6, 1986, which is actually two days after my birthday, but I figure good enough. Two days is better than three months.
“Does it have my parents names on there?”
“It says Mother—Sig, um, Sig-rid?” Rashad stumbles on the Scandinavian name. “Is that right?”
“Yes, that’s right. And under father?”
“Let’s see,” Rashad pauses again. I picture him squinting his eyes to decipher the handwriting. “Father—a Dr. George Newell.”
“Um,” I laugh. “Well that’s my grandfather,” emphasizing the grand. “What else does it say?”
“Under person to contact in an emergency, she also listed Dr. George Newell.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I say, trying not to lose it. “Isn’t my dad on there anywhere?”
“What’s his name?”
“Um. I don’t see him.”
I sigh deeply, a real glottal release. “Well shit.”
Rashad laughs sympathetically.
To be continued...