Thursday, July 12, 2012

I Think I Am, But Maybe I Am Not

I was beginning to doubt my existence, not to mention my citizenship. It's a long story. About 34 years (I think) long.  But
I do exist. 
A lot of people can testify to this.  There are five little humans roaming about the earth (or this small corner thereof) bearing traces of myself.
I have a birth certificate.
I have a driver's license.
I vote in local, state and federal elections.
I pay taxes.
I do laundry and dishes and wipe bottoms and cook and scream at roosters.
I have friends and acquaintances around our small town, 626 facebook friends across the globe and two parents that read my blog when they can find their glasses.
What has been missing to prove I am?

A Passport.

Back in December of 2011, my husband encouraged me to apply for my passport.  Not being the type to rush into anything that involves paperwork, I waited until December 29, at 4:30 PM, the second-to-the-last possible day of the year in which to apply at a local post office (because you can't do that on Saturdays, apparently).  If you have ever applied for a U.S. Passport, you know that you need to submit a sad and ugly 2"x2" photograph of yourself, and your birth certificate.  What you may not notice is that the fine print  instructs you to provide additional evidence proving your citizenship if your birth certificate was filed more than one year after your live birth.
I was born in 1978, according to my birth certificate dated 1980.
What can I say? My parents weren't big into following the rules back then.
A few weeks after I applied, I received a really nice letter asking for a combination of "early public record created near the time of your birth" such as:
  • Hospital Certificate
  • Baptismal Certificate
  • Early School Record, or
  • U.S. Census Record.
I also received a phone call from the Department of State, (way to make your caller id read like you're REALLY important stuff) Detroit Passport Agency (ok, down a few notches in importance, I guess) to help me figure out what sort of records I might find.  Its a good thing they called because there are almost no "public records" created near the time of my birth specifically about me.  I was
  • Born at home (no hospital certificate)
  • Not baptised as an infant (and when I was, there was no certificate)
  • Home schooled (again, no record of my kindergarten in the garage).
So the lady on the phone suggested I get a notarized letter from my mother describing the circumstances of my birth.  And another one from the attending midwife.
Only there was no attending midwife, just my father. [Good catch, Dad!]
My favorite line from my mother's letter: "Due to an oversight on our part, her birth was not recorded until her brother was born in 1980."  I always did like that brother. 
I sent the notarized letter off, but a few weeks later I received another nice phone call.  Apparently they wanted a combination of documents, not just one.  Some suggestions:
  • A Life Insurance policy taken out when I was a child
  • Newspaper articles announcing my birth
  • State registry for home schools
  • Notarized letter from older sibling(s) detailing their memories of the event of my birth
  • A notarized list of my siblings birth names, birth dates and places of birth.
But my parents didn't really go in for insurance policies.  They just kept us safe by making us recite a list of rules before we went out the back door to play. [The list was by little 1980 brother's fault: No gate. No barn. No pool. No horses. No cows. True story. Separate post, maybe?]  And my parents have never really cared much for announcements in small town newspapers.  And the state registry for home schools?  Back then the State of Indiana did not record the number of children in each home school, nor their names and ages.  However, I was able to get one of my older siblings to write a letter for me.  The best line from that letter? "Not only do I remember walking in my parent's bedroom and seeing my brand new baby sister, but I remember how exciting it was to my four-year-old self that we got to eat pizza!"
Yes, folks, passports are granted based on the evidence supplied by a four-year-old child.
Not really.  The letters and the lists, however notarized they were, proved to be not-quite-enough.  So, for the low, low price of $67.00 and about 6 weeks of my life, I got a copy of the 1980 census record that shows my existence in the household of David Edward Hutchins, that great catcher of babies.  When those records came, I mailed them off in my typical last-chance fashion.

Yesterday, a little more than six months after I applied, my passport came in the mail! Yay!

 I am so glad my parents took part in that census and that they did not have any more oversights concerning me.
I know that the Detroit Passport Agency of the United States Department of State was waiting on that census record to issue my officialness, but that was just formality, I'm sure.  I am confident it was those notarized letters from my crazy family that convinced them I am who I say I am.  Now I just need to convince myself...

I ran across this article in April, and I realized that my start in this world could have been much tougher.  I mean, my parents may not have thought public records were that important in 1978, but at least I didn't have my death certificate filed before my birth certificate.


  1. What a tale!!! This merely encourages me to go ahead and file for Z's Certificate of Citizenship. I wasn't gonna, but now...well, let's just say you lit a fire under me!! ;)

  2. Yes, Amy, please do! I just read a very sad article about an woman who was adopted as a child, but her parents didn't bother to file the necessary stuff and now that she's an adult (and they've passed away) she finds out she isn't a US citizen. And incidentally, India doesn't want her back.