Yankee Doodle Baby
As a perk of being born to an American, Baby gets to be a citizen of the USA. Unfortunately, she can never be president because she was born on foreign soil, but, to be honest, I wouldn’t wish that job on my worst enemy.
The appointments at the US Embassy for registering the birth of babies are annoyingly first thing in the morning, which meant we had to brave the Tube during rush hour with a pram. That was fun. Every time somebody sneezed or sniffled, I sent them eye daggers. Travelling with a pram on public transport should be an Olympic sport. After balancing it on the escalator and getting it up the stairs, I felt like we deserved a medal.
I had to drag James kicking and screaming to the Embassy because he gets his shackles up whenever he comes into contact with the American establishment. One too many run-ins with over-zealous passport controllers in US airports, methinks. To be fair, I’ve had a few of those myself, as they seem to take umbrage that I’ve chosen not to live in the States.
As we passed the Canadian Embassy, which is opposite the US Embassy on Grosvenor Square, James was going on and on about how accessible it was. “Look! You can just walk right in. No fences. No machine guns. Just a nice flag with a maple leaf on it.” I pointed out to him that nobody wants to kill Canadians, unless, of course, they get mistaken for Americans. “Good point,” he acquiesced.
I could practically feel the angst emanating from him as we went through the stringent security at the US Embassy. They took everything, including the scissors I sterilised for cutting open Baby’s Aptamil feed at 11:00 and my Kindle. I had been looking forward to getting on with Book 2 of The Game of Thrones series. Instead, I had to make due with reading a free copy of a magazine called American in Britain.
There was a long list of documentation that I had to bring along to prove everything I needed to prove, including marriage certificates, birth certificates and passports. I also had to bring along anything I could that would prove I had actually grown up in New Jersey. Thankfully, when my mother came over to meet Baby, she had brought along a folder full of old school reports and school photos (more on that in another post). So I dutifully handed over my report card from when I was 6 years old, complete with the little manila envelope they used to come in. Apparently, my teacher said I was making good progress, but she would like “to see [me] talk less during reading and finish [my] work.” Naughty me.
Of course, it was inevitable that I would forget one thing and that one thing was a passport photo of Baby that adhered to the American size guidelines. I only had passport photos of British size. So, I left James at the Embassy reading The American, packed Baby up, went through security in reverse, and toddled over to Gould’s Pharmacy down the road, where I joined the queue with all the other American parents who didn’t have the correct photo size. I’m happy to report that even babies look crap in passport photos. That makes me feel better about my own.
Back in the Embassy, I re-presented with the correct documentation and started the long wait. I bet they were reading through all my old report cards because it took forever for us to be called back to the window. When we were summoned, I got a grilling over my childhood: where was I born? They kept asking in different ways until I practically had to provide the longitude and latitude of the hospital. Where did I go to high school? Where did I travel to when I was little? I’m glad they didn’t ask what I got in third grade math, though, because I really don’t remember.
After three hours of waiting, Baby finally became an American. She emitted a well-timed squawk by way of an oath and seemed to be happy with her newfound duality. Already, I’m worrying that she’s going to leave us to move over there one day, but I suppose that’s what I did to my parents.
As we left the Embassy after collecting our contraband from security, James got a mischievous gleam in his eye. He was looking at the machine gun-wielding guards speculatively. “Do you think they would let us take a picture of Baby and me standing in between them?” he asked me. “No, James, absolutely not,” was my first reaction. Not because I didn’t like the idea of Baby being in a photo with guns, but because I was sure they’d say no. And most likely shoot us for asking. But I should never underestimate the power of James’ charm offensive, or offensive charm, as I often call it. He asked. They said yes. Photo is above.
So now I have a Yankee Doodle daughter. It’s up to me to teach her the values that I hold dear from America, like having a can-do attitude and believing that anything is possible. But I also want her to have the best of Britain: a great sense of humour and a love of travel. And should she decide to move over there one day, all I can say is that I think I’m giving her one of the best tools for succeeding in the United States: a British accent.