It’s a chilly February afternoon, and I am heading across the walkway to the Franklin County Probate Court. My two daughters are with me, one hanging onto my shoulder, the other bouncing up the steps with the kinetic energy of a three-year-old. We are going to an adoption proceeding. After today, my aunt and uncle will legally be the parents of their adopted twin baby boys.
As we board the elevator, heading up to the 22nd floor, I feel an unanticipated surge of emotion. I think about how much our family has changed, so fast. I went from being the child to being a parent. I’ve lost a parent. I’ve also gained a few symbolic parents through marriage. It strikes me how our relationship roles can shift almost instantly. My older daughter tugs on my hand, and it reminds me again how quickly – and dramatically – this happens.
The girls and I go into the building. We meet up with the family members who have come to support my aunt today: another aunt and her husband, my grandma, my uncle’s parents, some of my uncle’s brothers and their sons; and we visit together while we wait for our appointment. A few minutes later, the adoption agency’s rep appears, and then the attorneys arrive. Finally we all enter the courtroom.
It’s not what I expected. Instead of a cavernous chamber with a big gallery and jury box, we are in a rather intimate room with a single row of chairs behind the petitioners’ tables. There is a bench for the judge, but it doesn’t seem nearly as imposing as I must have imagined. The attorneys tell everyone where to sit in kind, quiet voices. No one seems to mind that my children are curious and want to try different chairs, touch the desks. The representative from the state agency even picks up my younger daughter while I help the older one get out her coloring book.
After just a few minutes, Magistrate S* comes through a single door at the back of the room. He mounts the steps up to the bench and sits quickly. I notice he’s wearing a suit, not robes. He looks at a large computer monitor on his desk. At least there’s a gavel up there- something that looks like what I thought it should!
I watch my aunt and think about the coincidences between my life and hers. My dad, who passed away four years ago, was her oldest brother. Now, his sister was going to adopt, just as he had done. Maybe this was part of the reason I felt compelled to be in the courtroom today. It was a circuitous connection to my own father, and to my own adoption. For some reason, I had to be here.
The proceeding goes very quickly. The magistrate has us all state for the record who we are and why we are present. He speaks to my aunt alone, with just her attorney and the social workers in the room. He does the same with my uncle. Then all return to the courtroom for the final few questions.
The magistrate asks my uncle why he thinks my aunt will be a good mother. My uncle is genuine and spontaneous with his answer: she demonstrates it already, feeding and caring for the babies, loving them and playing with them. Then the magistrate asks my aunt the same question about her husband. She describes how my uncle is very involved with the twins’ care as well, and how much he dotes on them. It is obvious that they both love the boys very much already.
The last question was to my aunt. He asked her what she felt she had to offer the boys. As she thought for a moment how to answer, I wanted to shout: “Look behind you, auntie!” Because here we were, all these aunts and uncles and grandparents and cousins, these people who drove three or four hours in the winter cold to attend these adoption proceedings.
Yes, her answer was good- she would give them love and attention, affection, care, a good home, etcetera. But I know what she really has to give, what she and my uncle have to offer those boys. A family.
And damn, am I happy to be part of it. Especially now that it comes with two new adorable little cousins. 🙂