Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Babci gets an ID card

Around the time that my brother got married, Babci was nominated as Woman of the Year in their small town. It was a simple honour, but it meant a lot to my aunt and to the members of her community who loved her and knew that they were loved by her. She didn't win, someone else was given that honour that year.

Meanwhile, my aunt was making arrangements to get to my brother's wedding. Because it was far away, they had to fly. Babci, who was now in her late 70s, had never been on an airplane, so this would be a new adventure for her. But there was a little problem. Babci had also never bothered to obtain U.S. citizenship. Her paperwork was not in order: she had a long-expired passport hidden away somewhere in the house but no one knew where; she also had a Green Card, but it too was long-expired. To travel on an airplane in the U.S., though, one needs a government-issued ID card. That's usually a drivers license, but Babci never got one of those either. Her life was too straightforward to bother with such details.

So my aunt went to the government office that issues ID cards to request a card for Babci, something that would make it possible for her to travel to her grandson's wedding on an airplane. She had some paperwork, but the normal documents were not in order, so she was refused. My aunt told me that she went, dragging the short Babci who loved simple things, from government office to beaurocratic office to official office. They kept being given more paperwork to complete, then receiving more refusals.

Coming on the heels of a failed nomination for Woman of the Year, my aunt was getting increasingly defensive of Babci who, as she trailed along, kept telling my aunt that she could stop trying to get the ID card. "No, Anush, it's ok. It's alright if I can't go." She pointed out that my brother would forgive her. But my aunt insisted, telling my grandmother that she deserved this. Woman of the Year may be insignificant (plus, there may be a lot of little Babci types out there), but to miss her grandson's wedding was unthinkable. After all she had given to her community, the least her community could do was give her an ID card.

Finally, in one office, the person they spoke to was rather cruel in her refusal, and my aunt was so upset by this time that she told her off, saying that Babci is just one woman, a little quiet woman, but who has done so much, and is it really too much to ask for her to get a card with her name and photo so that she can travel? She's certainly not a risk... Well, it worked. Finally, this beaurocrat was won over by my aunt's arguments and my grandmother's sweet demeanour, and a few weeks later Babci flew for the first and only time in her life.

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