Wednesday, September 1, 2010
By the time we had joined the closest of the lengthy immigration queues, I was starting to despair that my back would not withstand another half an hour with a 10kg littlie strapped to my chest. I caught my husband's eye and exhaled slowly.
A pashmina and laptop pressed against my arm, accompanied by a confident woman's voice: "Excuse me, can I get past?". I looked straight ahead and dopily registered a customs official opening the fabric barrier and beckoning. "Excuse me please!" The laptop and pashmina were becoming more insistent but something about the official's face made me hesitate. He was looking squarely at me.
I pointed to my chest, in question, and he nodded. The pashmina and laptop froze. Warily, we walked forward to the official, who was by now seated behind his desk.
As he studied the little 'un's passport, I scrutinized his features, wondering why he had singled us out for this little act of benevolence. He had a kindly wizened face that seemed perpetually and mildly amused although ready to deny it at a moment's notice. I was deliberating whether to ask him about the origin of his unusual name when I noticed him smiling at my little 'un, who was by now tapping her hands on the rippled stainless steel of his desk. He handed her back her passport, then set about the business of taking our photos and fingerprints.
"Sank-you!" She sang out. Then he really did smile.
Everything in order, he handed us back our documents, welcomed us to the United Stated of America and wished us a pleasant stay. "Bye bye, Isabella" he said quietly to our little 'un as we made our way past the desk.
She looked back at him seriously and waved.
My husband laughed. "We really don't pay her enough."