So a few moments later I snatched an opportunity and asked her, “You know what that means?” She looked up at me again and asked “what?” and then went back to playing Cats in the Cradle. I said, “It means forever” with a big smile on my face. She abruptly looked up at me and with a very surprised look on her face she said “No, Mom. Remember you said my mom and dad can’t take care of me for now.”
I took her hands in mine, and said, “Sweety, your birth mom and birth dad can’t take care of you, now or ever. They don’t know how. They love you very much, but they just don’t know how to take care of a little girl. They agreed that the best thing was for you to come and be our daughter, forever.” Her big blue eyes started to fill with tears, just a little. “Will I ever get to see them at least?” I wanted so much in that moment for her to reject them, but at the same time, I knew that was an impossibility. “Of course you will! We have agreed that you will get to see them sometimes and even talk to them on the phone.” She looked bravely at me and asked, “Can I have a sleepover with them?” My stomach turned at the thought of it. “No, that you can’t do.” “How come?” she wanted to know. I explained to her that they didn’t live in a place that would be appropriate for her to have a sleepover. Those were words she understood. I didn’t need to elaborate, it was as if she knew exactly what I meant. How could she not? She’d lived with them before, she knew the turmoil and the inability…now that she had had an experience of a normal home and family it was clear to her what was wrong with the past.
October 10, 2008 is a day I won’t ever forget. I imagine it’s the same as when a mother gives birth; you just don’t forget the details of such an important day. We rented a mini van so that 6 of us could travel together to the court house for the event. We rode together with Mary’s maternal grandmother who had traveled from Florida, and my in-laws, (who had been surrogate grandparents all along.) We were to meet our priest and his wife at the courthouse as well.
As we entered the court house, Mary started to show some signs of nervousness. I’m sure she had no idea what to expect, and neither did we. Court houses are scary places when you’re little. There are lots of people milling around, and a few explatives here and there as well. As you look around a courthouse, you can see all kinds of emotion from fear, to anger, sadness, and joy. We soon met up with our priest and his wife, made the necessary introductions and started the waiting process. Eventually we were joined by our attorney and the adoption case worker. (Ironically, this would be her last case as she was set to retire in just 2 weeks time!)
Finally the time came to enter into the courtroom. We were directed where to sit, while our friends and family were ushered to appropriate seats. The court officer approached and sat across from Mary, leaned back in his chair and turned to one direction, and placed one arm on the table.
“Hi” he said in a comforting tone. “What’s your name?” Mary looked at me shyly and I nodded for her to answer. “Mary” she said, quite sheepishly. “Do you know what’s going to happen here today?” he asked. “I’m going to be adopted?” she replied, unsure if this was the right response. “That’s right!” he said. “I have a few questions for you. Are you ready?” She shook her head in response. He proceeded to ask her full name, what school she attended, who her teacher was, what town she lived in, what her favorite color is. She answered each one confidently. The he told her that in a few minutes the judge would be coming into the room and was going to ask her a few questions. “Do you know what she will ask you?” he inquired. “No” said Mary. “What’s your name?” Mary looked at me, grinned, and turned back to him, “Mary.” He continued, “What school do you go to?” She responded with a giggle. “Who is your teacher?” Mary continued to answer the questions with a huge smile on her face, indicating that she figured out what he was doing. He ended by telling her she was going to do just fine, and that she had nothing to worry about.
Shortly after he left, he entered the room again and the formal court process was started. The judge entered and came over to the table where we were sitting and assumed the chair that the officer had used. The judge greeted Mary with a handshake, and proceeded with her few questions. She asked Mary her name, her age and where she lived. She asked if Mary liked her school. Then she gently explained to Mary that today was the day that her adoption would be finalized. She took out of her folder a very colorful document that read, “Certificate of Adoption To: Mary [her middle and our last name] of [our town and state] In accordance with G.L c 210 and s6A, I certify that [our names] of [our town and state] were adopted by you on October 10, 2008 by decree of this court, and the parents’ name following the adoption will be MOM and DAD. Signed this 10th day of October, 2008 ” There was a line for Mary to sign, and a line for the judge to sign. Mary got to use a special light up pen for the occasion that was later presented to her by the judge.
The rest of the business was taken care of in short order, with a document for my husband and I to sign. Mary was then presented with a teddy bear, and a lollipop to finish it off! We took several pictures with the judge behind the bench, and headed out for a brunch. We were now offically a family. It was done.