Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Day One, Rest of Our Lives
The smile above is for the New York Family Court, which granted our petition yesterday to adopt Elizabeth.
We never had much doubt we could make this happen eventually. But courts often seem more interested in their own procedures than in the merits of the case at hand, and we've been working on this for a year and a half.
Even yesterday, with all the pleadings and supporting documentation finally lined up as neatly as our lawyer could make them, the expert witness standing by, and reassuring signals emanating in advance from the judge's own clerk, we entered the courtroom with our hearts in our throats.
When I'm feeling troubled over how much damage a dysfunctional judicial branch can inflict on ordinary citizens, I naturally think first of the current U.S. Supreme Court. But the view changes when you stand before a judge with the power to decide something you care deeply and personally about. You realize that courts of original jurisdiction are the ones that really have to work right.
Fortunately, on this day, this one did. The judge wore a permanent scowl and brought a harsh, disapproving tone to almost everything she said. And she practically leaped off the bench and down all our throats when the muted iPhone our daughter Laurel was using to keep E distracted suddenly interjected a short fragment of the Dora the Explorer theme.
But in the end the court found that Elizabeth's mother can't take care of Elizabeth, that we can, and that it's in E's best interest that her future be placed in our hands.
We both shed a few tears of gratitude and relief as everyone in the courtroom, almost all of them strangers, applauded. The judge excused us, and as we rose to leave, E looked up brightly and contributed her first and last word to the proceedings.
"Bye!," she said.