Passports and the passing of time

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My boys recently got new passports. It’s my older son, Buster’s third passport, my younger son, Vesuvius’s second. To me, there’s nothing that marks the passing of time as poignantly as a passport. I’ve written about my own experiences of that for the Sydney Morning Herald, and posted here.

Buster got his first passport as a baby, and for years passport control officers from various countries would stare at the photo and then at my son, trying to see a glimmer of that baby in the growing boy before them.

Vesuvius was a young toddler when he got his first passport. He was a wild ruffian of a toddler, so herding him up, and getting him to sit still so we could take the shot was a mammoth ordeal. It was only when I got home that I realised he had a big smear of dirt up his cheek, and that the passport photo clearly showed that. I looked at the pic in despair. Should I get it redone? I quickly realised that it would be a rare day that Vesuvius didn’t have a smudge of dirt up his cheek, so at least the shot was authentic.

The latest set of passports arrived and I smiled as I saw the photos, and added haircuts to the to-do list. They both look a bit wild and woolly in their photos.

But it was Buster’s passport that moved me unexpectedly, with his rock star hair and handsome face. He’s 14 now and no longer has the face of a child. He’s in that middle-phase, between boy and man. His face changes at night while he sleeps and in the morning when he ambles in for his seventeen Weet-Bix breakfast, he looks more like a man than when he’d gone to bed.

I suddenly realised that this was the passport he would be using alone. That he’d travel on it with us for the next few years, but then would graduate high school and probably do what he’s been talking about for the past couple of years… “Mum, I’m gonna hit the road after school.”

If he does, which I’m sure he will … it will be with this passport. This one with the bad hair photo in it.

And I realised how I need to go travelling with him again, like we used to do … before he takes off alone.