David’s passport: My gift to him is symbolic and sentimental

Having a passport provides additional opportunities for travel and adventure. Photo by Cindy Kujala.

Having a passport provides additional opportunities for travel and adventure. Photo by Cindy Kujala.

For most of my life I was an avid shopper and gift-giver to a long list of friends and relatives. I loved buying gifts. Picking out cards and wrapping paper was an extension of what I enjoyed about gift-giving. Then there was the wrapping and bows and, finally, the actual giving. I loved it.

I think I might have worn myself out (or else have just aged to a different place in life). I still very much enjoy giving, but am less enthusiastic about the shopping and wrapping and coming up with gift ideas. These days, even picking out a card seems difficult.

What I most enjoy these days is sharing experiences. Doing something different. Going someplace. Exploring and travel. A day spent with others on the pontoon boat beats any store-bought item. And especially, travel—in-state or out-of-state, near or far—I enjoy travel, and sharing the experience is even better.

I have had the extremely good fortune of enjoying a good deal of travel with my great-nephew for most of his 18 years. By plane, train and automobile, we have explored many places and traveled to a multitude of states. We’ve gone by ship and by fishing boats both large and small.

David and I have played in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and fished for halibut in the Pacific. We’ve rafted the Colorado River and trolled the waters of the bayou in New Orleans. Other fishing adventures took place in northern Minnesota and off the east coast of Florida. Years ago, David caught one of his first fish out in North Dakota when we took a trip to a dinosaur museum in Dickinson. Last month we caught fish in the Guadalupe River north of San Antonio, Texas.

I would be hard pressed to think of the number of museums we have visited. We’ve gone to amusement parks and aquariums, the zoo, SeaWorld, and Walt Disney World. Food we’ve experienced is another story, including (David) eating alligator in Louisiana.

I was over 20 years old before I first stepped on an airplane. A high school friend and I took a winter vacation to Puerto Rico. At age 18, David has been on many airplanes. Now that he’ll be graduating high school, chances are fairly good that our travel-together days may become limited as his life changes in the coming months and years.

So, what does one do for an 18th birthday gift for a great-nephew with whom I have shared such a wide variety of adventures and experiences? How about the gift of a passport?

Just prior to David’s 18th birthday last November, the idea came to me to help him get his passport as a birthday gift. Sometimes I’m big on symbolism, and I have traveled with him probably more than anybody else in my life. The vast majority of his traveling has been done with me.

When I first mentioned it to him, he was a bit puzzled. Of course, he probably never really pondered having a passport and may not even have known much of when a person needs a passport. After a short explanation, he got it. I want him to continue what we started—getting out and exploring the world.

Back in February, David and I finally got together to make the passport happen. I wanted him to know the steps and how to take them. So, one Friday we spent the day together. First was a stop to get his passport photo taken. Then we went home to fill out two online forms, one to get a certified copy of his birth certificate which was needed for the passport and one being the actual passport form. I provided limited guidance as he filled out the forms.

Our next stop was mistakenly the St. Louis County Courthouse, but we were then directed to the proper location of the county’s vital records office to get his birth certificate. After compiling all of the necessary documentation, we then went to the appointment I had made at the post office for the final paperwork step and payment for both a passport book and a passport card. By this time, David was pretty excited about the possibilities associated with having a passport. Mission accomplished!

Although David’s life will be changing dramatically with high school graduation, we do have one more vacation plan in the works. Last August when we were on an Alaskan cruise for my husband’s birthday, I told our small group (which included my husband, my nephew Brandon and his fiancé Katie) that we would take another cruise together when David turned 21. Our tentative discussions include a Caribbean cruise to Cuba and through the Panama Canal. I’m already counting the days.

If all goes well, getting a passport takes six to eight weeks from the submission of the application, documents and payment. Coincidentally, David’s brand-new passport arrived in the mail the second week of April while he and I were enjoying a final spring break trip in San Antonio. (See p. 6.)

My hope, as David goes off to enjoy life out in the world as an adult, that someday he boards a plane with passport in hand, and he gives a moment of reflection to the travel days we shared.

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