Friday, May 19, 2006

What, no Parade?


Last year, I decided to tackle a project: I wanted to become an Irish citizen. I didn't necessarily want to move to Ireland; I just wanted to honor my Irish-born Grandmother. Thousands of U.S. residents pursue Irish citizenship each year, and it takes some doing. You have to prove your heritage, and that means collecting all sorts of documents. Birth certificates. Marriage certificates. Death certificates. There's a sense of accomplishment in getting all the necessary papers in order, so I was pretty proud of myself on the day I put my hands on the last document and prepared my application. My sister decided to apply as well, since one set of documents could serve us both.

So the magic day arrived. December 12, 2005. We had an appointment at the Boston office of the Consulate General of Ireland. Armed with all our documents---originals, duplicates AND triplicates--my sister and I proudly walked through the front door of the office building and into the elevator. I don't know what my sister expected, but I was ready for shamrocks and Irish music (U2, of course) and pictures of Aer Lingus jets and pints 'o Guinness. The whole nine yards. But as we entered the elevator and headed up to the Consulate General of Ireland, there was nothing Irish about any of it.

Nothing.

In fact, we exited the elevator and walked into the office without seeing one shamrock. And the Boston edition of the Consulate General of Ireland is essentially a one-room affair with minimal reminders of Ireland. A brochure here and a pamphlet there. That was it. A rather spartan waiting room is pretty much all there is to the place. That, and a door leading 'somewhere else.' I was sure that beyond this door is where they kept the shamrocks. The Guinness. Our 'Official Welcome Kit to Ireland.'

So, after a short stay in the waiting area my sister and I were summoned to go through the door and into the promised land. Remember the scene in 'The Wizard of Oz' when the house crashes down onto the poor Wicked Witch of the East? When everything turns from black-and-white to glorious color as Dorothy opens the door? You never forget that moment, and that was going to be our moment.

So, from Kansas to Oz we went. Through the Technicolor door and into...

A tiny little room that had two chairs, a small shelf, and BULLET-PROOF GLASS!

It was a horrible, pay-no-attention-to-the-man-behind-the-curtain moment. And to make matters worse was this: The woman who tended to our affairs (she being behind the bullet-proof glass) had more of a Braintree accent than an Irish one. We had to pass our papers through a secure drawer and watch...and watch...while she dutifully looked at our originals and stamped the copies. Then she asked for a pile of money...cash money...and disappeared behind another door with papers and money. Gone, no doubt, to Emerald City. Although we didn't say it, my sister and I both thought the same thing: 'We've been had.' Not even a receipt. Even Wal-Mart makes sure you get one of those.

So the whole thing was completely underwhelming. No fanfare. No 'Welcome to Ireland!' Nothing. We were told to expect our papers in six months. But my sister and I had nagging doubts about that. For all we knew, our money was on 'Lucky Leprechaun' in the fifth race at Suffolk Downs later that same day. Still, we held onto the belief that the Irish are good people (even the ones from Braintree). I rationalized that our expectations for the whole appointment (OK...my expectations) were just way too high. Not that I expected Bono of U2 to greet me or 'Riverdance' to be playing on a TV, but I expected something more than we got.

The epilog to the story is, of course, that we did get our papers. They came after only three months, not six. So my sister and I are now proud Irish citizens; our status immortalized on the rather underwhelming papers we received. Unimpressive as they may be, these documents prove our dual citizenship.

In all honesty, the benefits of Irish citizenship are marginal: I can head to the shorter line when getting off the plane in Ireland, and I can probably get a resident fishing license rather than the more expensive non-resident one. And, of course, I can live and work and travel throughout Ireland and the EU much easier than I could without Irish citizenship. But none of those are reasons why we did this.

We did it to honor 'Nana.'

2 Comments:

At 10:45 PM, Blogger Harry said...

You could get an Irish passport...which might come in handy sometime.

 
At 4:06 PM, Blogger oldtownboys said...

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