Now that the Baby Angel's absence is, kind of, the norm and my maudlin maternal moments are minimising (did you see what I did there...with the alliteration??...oh never mind), I thought I would tell you about the lead up to her departure.
The Saturday before the BA left for the UK was the weekend of the AFL Grand Final. She decided to combine the event with a farewell party and asked us if we'd facilitate the affaire. Festivities were due to commence at 1.30pm and, on the dot, a minibus full of teenagers pulled up at our doorstep and disgorged seven boys and three girls. This was the first wave, but they wasted no time in pulling seats into an appropriate ringside position and settling in for the 'big game'.
The boys were initially confused by the nature of our ring-in AV equipment and spent some time fiddling with the aerial until they realised it was not an HD screen. Heaven forbid!! In the end they seemed to cope.
Somewhat disturbing to the middle aged mother in me, although not necessarily to my 19 year old subliminal self, was the notable presence of multiple bottles of vodka. I mean! Sheesh! What happened to BEER????? (What's worse is that they dilute it with rubbish such as Passiona and Raspberry Crush!)
Anyway, we fed the crowd and as the afternoon progressed, another 10 or so teenagers joined the throng. It was in this atmosphere of both relief and frenzy, as we thanked God that it was all going smoothly and we could relax and watch the said football ourselves.....before putting on the next batch of spring rolls......... that the BA approached me, ashen faced.
"Mum, I can't find my passport folder."
Me: I am sure it will be somewhere in your room.
BA: No, I've looked...it's not there.
(sounds of guests coming in looking for food, looking for the hostess and cheering the most recent goal by the favoured underdog team).
Me: Well BA, now is a really bad time to try and look for it! I'm sure its around somewhere.
BA: The last time I saw it was yesterday afternoon in the city.....
Maybe it was the glass of wine I was sipping. Maybe it was the coming and going of guests. Maybe it was the bemused look on the faces of our adult guests? Maybe it was the frantic morning of shopping, cleaning and preparing for the event that influenced me. For whatever reason I was not going to let this blip on the radar ruin our afternoon.
Me: BA...chill out. You've got a house full of guests and we are not likely to be able to find your folder now. Go and have a glass of whatever it is you people drink and relax. We'll deal with the issue later.
In retrospect I was ridiculously calm.
I suppose I really thought it would be somewhere in her room. I mean, if you could see her room you would understand my nonchalance. My BA, for all her beauty, brains and charm, can be a bit of a ditz. I was sure that once the floor had been cleared, the bags emptied and the coat pockets checked, the offending folder would turn up.
On Sunday morning once the minibuses had departed, the collection and recycling of Smirnoff bottles completed and the detritus of the party rationalised into a mountain of dishes and food scraps, I started to address the issue of the missing passports. And e-ticket. They had all been in the same folder.
I nagged the BA out of bed and enforced a radical cleanup of her horrendous room. Nothing. We looked behind things, under things and in things. Nothing. She checked her car. Her friend checked her car. Eventually, I went and checked her car. No passport. I did find a wet tent which had been in her boot (trunk) for three months, since her last camping trip, but that did nothing to solve our problem or sweeten my mood. We went over her movements and the last time she'd seen the folder, hoping for some revelation. I suggested she call the police to see if it had been handed in. The police told her to file an online 'missing item' report. I decided to check the passport website.
The news was not good. The first thing it said was that it was a federal offence not to report the loss of a passport. And she had lost TWO passports. It also said that as soon as you reported a passport missing it would be cancelled and a new document would need to be issued, costing approximately $200. I had only just shelled out $200+ for the original passport so I was not feeling particularly generous, as you can imagine. I decided to call the travel agent and see what they recommended. After all, at this point it was about 55 hours until her scheduled departure.
The travel agent was incredibly helpful: sympathetic, practical and informative but at the end of the day it boiled down to this; she could get an emergency Australian passport within 24 hours (of calling on Monday) but it was going to cost, although not as much as rearranging her flights. The last time this had happened, the girl informed me in comforting tones, the passport had arrived at 3pm the following day. The BA was scheduled to depart at 6pm. Cutting it just a bit fine I thought.
In all this discussion of replacement of Australian passports I had minimised the issue of the missing UK passport. After all she could always get a replace that once she got to England. Couldn't she? "Does she have a visa for the UK?" asked the agent.
"Well, no," I replied, "we normally go into the UK on our UK passports. But I understand you can get in on an Aussie passport nowadays anyway, can't you?" The girl's brow furrowed, over the phone.
"Hmmmmm. How long is she going for? What date is her return ticket?"
"About 9 months. Her return ticket is for June."
There was a slight, barely discernible, but ominous pause.
"Ummmmmm, they're not going to let her into the UK for 9 months without a visa."
"But she's a UK cit," I protested," she was born there!!"
"That may be," my adviser pointed out, "but without a passport, they may not let her in."
"Well how long will it take to get a visa??"
Again that momentary but ominous hesitation.....
"About two months. And you need to go to Victoria for an interview."
I drew breath and tried to focus on stilling the bongobeat of my heart. SURELY, she would be ok to get into the country? I mean, she has a UK birth certificate for f's sake! She would have grandparents (also citizens) waiting for her; surely they wouldn't stop her from entering the country???? But it was a real possibility. With a brow like thunder I informed her of this fact.
There were tears. Oh yes, there were tears. There was the suggestion of cancelling the trip (but your ticket is non-refundable BA...... >:-(....this will fix nothing!). There was remorse and fear and insecurity. Now, from a distance, it is hard to recall the sinking feeling that accompanied all this because, after all, now I know it turned out ok. But for several hours there on Sunday 29th of September I was in that place where a $2000+ ticket was in jeopardy; I was possibly up for a significant amount of dosh in terms of replacing passports, and the whole emotional build up to her Tuesday departure (including the whole 'why am I going away? Everything I have here is so good and it may not be here when I get back...') was possibly going to have to go onto the back burner and come up on repeat again when things got sorted. I gotta tell ya folks, I have been feeling a little fragile of late and this was not doing my heart/blood pressure/sanity any good at all!
But I am nothing if not pragmatic. I refused to report the lost passports until we had retraced her steps and assured ourselves that they were gone for good. I actually really thought they were. I thought someone must have lifted them out of her handbag or something. I really didn't think, as we set off into town, that we were ever going to see that mint green passport folder again.
We drove to the place she had parked. She paced about looking in bushes etc. We moved to the tram stop, which was a whole other kind of awful since it is outside the entrance to what was my Alma Mater, now a huge vacant block (do not start me on this). I couldn't wait to get out of there. No passport folder though. We drove into town, parked and walked down to the cafe/health food shop where the BA had been working this year. She had called them earlier in the day and told them of her loss but hadn't heard back so I had no great hopes of finding the missing items here. As we walked into the shop, one of the girls on the counter called out, "Oh, BA, I haven't had a chance to look for your passports yet. We've been so busy!"
The BA thanked her and made her way out back to look in the lockers. I put thoughts of immigration, money and passports out of my head as I looked at the herbal weight loss drugs and rubbed hand cream testers into the back of my hand. The things we do when stressed!!
I think I will forever hold in my memory, the moment when she appeared through the 'staff only' doors holding that Goddam Passport Folder in her hands. We looked at each other from opposite sides of the room and our mutual breath hold was practically audible. We paled, then we teared up, then we hugged, then we had to go and sit down.
It had been sitting up against the side wall of her locker, which was a similar light colour inside. She had been called away by the staff at the end of the day, to be given farewell gifts etc and she had pulled her bag and coat from the locker, not realising that the passport folder was not amongst them. In all honesty I cannot think of a recent time that I have been SO relieved. Which just goes to show how blessed I am. Cos after all, it was not the end of the world! But OMG for a few hours there on Sunday the 28th of September it sure felt close.
In a way, it was good it happened then. I'm pretty sure, for the BA, it was one of those life lessons which never leaves you. I just thank God it didn't happen when she was backpacking in East Germany.
Onward and upward I say!