My husband and I began to travel seriously early in our marriage. You may have seen us at various airports, mainly Newark (now called EWR), schlepping two little girls, then three, and then three plus a boy. Our first big trip in 1967 was to five European countries, requiring multiple flights and hotel reservations. The two girls were then 4 and almost 2 years old. One suitcase was completely filled with generic disposable diapers (a new and brilliant invention, preceding Pampers by several years), and the other was loaded with all of our clothing needs for three weeks of world-hopping.
That journey downed our little one with pneumonia in Rome and saw us cleaning a cab in London while the driver complained bitterly as the older one recycled her lunch with messy abandon. Recoveries were swift and the urge to travel never left us; and was clearly inherited by all four of those formerly little, now middle-aged kids.
We were not rich travelers. There was, in the beginning of our wanderings, the famous resource by Arthur Frommer, the book “Europe on Five Dollars a Day.” It appeared long before the internet made checking out hotels and sites comprehensive and easy. No, in those days of adventure, we had to write to each hotel separately to reserve, via Air Mail, and trust Frommer to be reliable. Sometimes he was and sometimes he wasn’t. But, to be honest, luxury and private baths certainly were not on our itinerary. More likely we were putting coins into a bathtub’s slot machine, waiting in line along with other true budget travelers. But the truth is that we all survived, and at least our older daughter still remembers that trip.
Seeing the world became a passion. We always were planning the next trip, even as the family grew and things like school and work intervened. Sometimes we took only one child. Our eldest had her first trip to Israel when she was 7. My husband and I were planning the trip with no children, but she nagged and cried and begged and sighed, until we finally agreed to take her along. None of us regret that trip, which was actually life-changing for her, and led her on a journey to become a Jewish professional.
Our son joined us on our next trip to Israel when he was a toddler. He had us to himself, which was rare and memorable in itself. I remember him sharing the playpen with my sister’s baby daughter, his cousin Tali, on their merpesit in Ramat Gan. My brother-in-law Zeev began learning English on that trip when our jetlagged little boy screamed all night. “Go to sleep,” Zeev would complain repeatedly, in seriously disturbed English — to no avail.
As the kids grew we continued to shlep them, usually en famille. Cross country yes! Europe yes! Israel, emphatically yes! Adventure everywhere. On the day of the thrilling and successful Entebbe raid, July 4, 1976, we were, all six of us, driving through South Dakota. We yearned to celebrate with our fellow Jews. But in South Dakota? And then, serendipitously, we heard the singing, as if in a dream, the joyous and spirited singing, in Hebrew, of “Am Yisrael Chai.” We found the source to be a United Synagogue Youth group traveling on a trip called USY on Wheels, a bus trip across America. The teens were parked over the next hill, dancing and rejoicing. And we joined them. Jewish pride was everywhere. Unforgettable. Emotional. Breathtaking!
And so we traveled — and now we don’t. Covid-19 has thwarted us in many ways, especially since we are old and our days of risky behavior have been subjugated to the latest reports from the CDC. A day out means leaving the front steps and perching our lawn chairs on the driveway. This is sad. This is true.
And so, on a September day, which happened to be my birthday, for no particular reason, I decided to check my passport. It had nine months left before it expired. Every seasoned traveler knows that many countries require that a passport has more than six months left before expiry. Their recourse is just not to let you in!
Thus, I did what anyone else would have done. I had a family member take a photo of me (from outdoors of course) and I sent the U.S. Passport Service $150, along with my old passport.
I would love to say that anticipating a vaccine and resumption of normalcy, my passport is now spanking new and ready to escort me to Israel and the world. So many places left to visit. We’ve been to numerous countries, large and small, fascinating and even more fascinating. Yet, the world is huge and there are places we want to return to constantly, like Israel for example, and new places we want to experience. But places galore there are! And we get older by the minute. How long will our bodies sustain us to explore this magnificent and majestic world we live in? Who knows? One thing I do know is that without a passport our options are limited indeed.
And so, it is my sad duty to report that as of late November, more than two months since the check was sent in the mail, the new passport, which is good for 10 years and clearly will outlive me, has not yet been delivered. A vaccine is promised and the pandemic may soon be history. It is already historic!
Every day it is my husband’s job to retrieve the mail. Every day he brings the same news. “The passport has not arrived.”
Up up and away. Not today. Maybe tomorrow!