May 16, 2007


Since I have planned an exciting vacation this summer, Hart and I need passports. I dutifully appeared at our township clerk's office, laden with folders of documents.
As it happened, the passport clerk was training an apprentice, presumably for the summer passport rush. "Have at it," I said. "This one should be more complicated and unusual that most."

Dutifully, I produced:

A notarized affidavit from the absentee parent to permit to get Hart a passport.

Proof of citizenship--immigration and naturalization papers. (I also have a congratulatory letter from President Bill Clinton, although I wasn't asked to show it.)

Certificate of Foreign Birth, in lieu of a U.S. birth certificate

Adoption Decree, in Russian, with signed and notarized English translation.
Even so, there were plenty of questions:

What's this name? That's his given Russian last name.

Who is Howard? His father.

I thought his name was Alexander. No, that is his middle name

Do we need his Russian passport? No, it has been invalid since
1996. It’s a souvenir.

Who is Jeffrey? His twin brother.

Who is Anatoly? That is his brother's Russian

Where does it say "twin birth?" Dunno, I can't read

Your last name is different from his. Yes.
As for my passport, I needed only my birth certificate and my driver’s license.

Four checks later, and swearing that the information we had given was true to the best of our knowledge, we were done.

It made me wonder how adoptive parents in a less-enlightened time handled this. If you were keeping the adoption secret from the child, surely teachers, doctors, government officials and family members would have to be complicit in the charade. I can’t imagine how (or why) people tried to pull it off.

I tried to entertain Hart while we waited by showing him his old Russian passport, his green card photo and documents hand-written in Russian. He was not interested in the least.

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