My mom used to tell us stories around the kitchen table about her childhood when we were youngsters. She grew up in Holland during World War II with her parents and five older brothers. The tales I most recall were not so much about the war. The ones we heard most often were about peeling buckets full of potatoes and pounding dirty clothes on a large flat rock. Honestly, I think the stories were more her way to motivate our pre-teen laziness than to clue us into her hard life. And yeah, the dressing down we got was certainly well deserved. Growing up before dishwashers were commonplace, my sister and I probably got more than a little emotional over whose turn it was to wash … or dry the dishes. It was a couple of years after the war ended that my mom, her youngest brother and parents floated on a big boat to America. She was just 14 years old. My mother can still tell you the date she entered the United States through Ellis Island. For her, the day she stepped off the boat, March 17, 1948, was a lot like the moment the war ended in Holland. She came over on her dad’s passport … but never got around to becoming a United States citizen. It was NOT being a citizen which recently became an issue with of all entities, the DPS. Did I mention that shortly after receiving her green card, she lost it? Yeah, I just found that little piece of information out when I got the phone call about six weeks ago. Mom’s voice started to waver as she spoke. “I was at the DPS today to change the address on my driver’s license. They asked me if I was an American citizen. And of course I told them no,” my mom began. Not understanding where she was going with her story, I sat waiting for the punch line. Finally, she blurted out that they asked for proof that she was in the country legally. In other words, produce your green card. I wish I coulda seen the look on the clerk’s face when my Mom said she had lost it in 1948 shortly after receiving it. The clerk handed the license back. She was to come back when she had a replacement card. Although I wasn’t laughing, I thought it hilarious that in 63 years, no one had asked for her green card. Suddenly, she was a grandma without a country. No Dutch passport and no green card. “We’ll just get you a new one. It will be an adventure,” I cheerfully replied, but secretly wondered if Mom was going to wind up camping out at the airport’s international terminal like the immigrant-without-a-country character Tom Hanks played in the movie “The Terminal.” After some research, it was determined Mom would need something called an Alien Registration number before she could even get a replacement green card. Oh, and did you know that the green card isn’t even green anymore? That’s what I heard anyway. Say wouldn’t it be cool if Mom could pick her favorite color to adorn her “green” card? If they charge extra for “designer” ones, I’m springing for the fee for baby blue or hot pink. Now that would be fun. It was a week later that Mom and I headed over to the local Immigration Office. It’s an interesting place. You can’t park in their parking lot. There is a guard walking around and lots of concrete barricades surrounding the building. There’s a parking lot about a block away so I dropped Mom off at the curb. Oh, and you have to have an appointment and go through metal detectors and a scanner like at the airport. Yep, just as I promised, we were having an adventure. When our number came up to talk to an immigration clerk, he started snickering like he’d never heard that story before. He wasn’t hopeful as his nimble fingers raced over the computer keyboard. And nope, Mom wasn’t in his computer. I coulda told him that. Computers weren’t around in 1948. But it was nice that he checked. He filled out a form requesting research be performed and said it could take up to six months. Her very important number was probably in a moldy box in a dark basement somewhere. In spite of his response, I was hopeful. “You know … some researcher is gonna see your information and take it on as a quest. They probably get all kinds of boring stuff to look up. When was the last time a researcher got to look up someone from 1948?” I told Mom as we exited the immigration office. And sure enough, I got a call just the other day. It had only been four weeks since our visit with the immigration clerk. They found my mother’s alien number ... except he wouldn’t give it to me over the phone. Mom and I have to go back down to immigration … for another adventure. I should have known this process was going to be about as easy as peeling buckets full of potatoes. Dixie Frantz is a longtime Kingwood resident and newspaper columnist since 1996. E-mail Dixie with your comments at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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