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Penniless Press... the inexhaustible voice


By Elizabeth di Grazia , March 2007

"Number Seventy." 

With forms twisted in one hand, I grip my jacket with the other stepping heavily towards the voice.  Rounding the partition, I see a woman in her thirties of East Indian descent, or, is it Somalian, or Ethiopian, or, who am I kidding, I really don't have a clue but the fact that she isn't white and that she isn't African American disappoints me.  I make the assumption that she is an immigrant.  My shoulders droop bringing my backpack to a plop on the floor.  How will she react to me saying: "My children have two moms?"  I'm aware that I'm categorizing her, putting her into a box.  I hate when it's done to me.  Still the anxiousness of whether I'll need to expose myself and my family is foremost in my mind.   

            "What can I do for you today?"

            I'm surprised at her perfect English.  Maybe this will be okay.  "I'm here to apply for social security cards for my children."  I pass her their birth certificates, their Guatemalan passports, their permanent resident cards and the social security applications.  "They have two moms.  I crossed out the father's name and put mother and added my partner.  Then I crossed out father's social security number and put her social security number." 

"Ummm ... just a moment."  She steps left behind a divider.  I can hear her voice but I can't make out what she is saying.

She returns, plucks at her keyboard.  I'm curious if the computer allows her to change where it says 'father's name' to 'other mother' but I don't feel as if I have a right to ask.  Over her tap, tap on the keyboard, I hear the humming of fluorescent lights.  The sound begins crowding me, pressing at me.  I keep telling myself that this is one day, one moment in my life.  Antonio and Crystel may have many days like this, explaining who they are, where they came from and why they have two moms. 

"Where did Martin come from?" she asks. She indicates the square that says, "OTHER NAMES USED."  Why do I have to explain is what I want to say but I'm here to get social security cards for the children and we need those to file for the adoption tax credit.

"Jody adopted the children first.  Her married name was Martin.  Antonio and Crystel came into the United States under the name of Martin.  Jody has since changed her name to di Grazia."  Taking a deep breath, I say, "At the second parent adoption, Antonio and Crystel, though named Martin, changed their name to di Grazia.  All of us are di Grazia's."  Writhing my back, I walk her through it one more time: "Jody's maiden name was Grady, her married name was Martin, and now she's a di Grazia."

"Oh . Ummm ... just a moment."  She steps behind the wall.  Returning, she says, "What is your maiden name?"

            My jaw tightens; teeth rub against teeth.  "I don't have a maiden name.  My birth name was Ann Elizabeth Smith, I changed it to Elizabeth Ann di Grazia."  I shake my head.  "We are all di Grazia's.  Me.  Jody.  Antonio.  Crystel."

            "Well ... let's see."  She peers at her computer screen.  "We won't be able to complete your application.  I need the adoption decree with both of the parents listed."

            "The birth certificates have us listed as parents," I say.  I point her to the area where Elizabeth Ann di Grazia and JoAnn Kay di Grazia are named.

            "It doesn't matter.  I need the form that you received before you received the birth certificate.  Also, we have to mark that they are legal aliens allowed to work and not U.S. Citizens until you get a United States passport for them."

            "I couldn't have received the birth certificates without the adoption decree."

            "It doesn't matter.  You need to have a United States passport to show citizenship.  Most people wait to get the social security numbers until after they get the United States passports."

            "I need their social security numbers for the adoption tax credit," I say. 

            "Number Seventy-One."


Elizabeth di Grazia has published short work in a number of periodicals, including The Phoenix, Rockhurst Review, Beginnings and four personal essays with Edge Life.  An essay will be forthcoming in the April 2007 issue of the Minnesota Parent magazine and The Mom Writer's Literary Magazine will be publishing an essay in their upcoming anniversary issue due out in June, 2007.


















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