It was Adoption Day, April 27. On that day, two beautiful, special-needs children were added to our family; we gained two more grandchildren. Mary and I were able to be present in the Courtroom as the gavel dropped and our family expanded. It was a first for us, and surprises greeted us along the way.
We arrived at the Courthouse on a rainy Thursday morning. Not knowing how long the proceedings would be, we hesitantly parked in a One Hour Only parking spot. As we entered the building, we encountered a security checkpoint. Our belongings were placed on a conveyor belt to be examined by security personnel. We managed to walk through the body scan and not set off the beep. The somber atmosphere changed when a member of the Security Team asked, with a smile on his face: “Are you here for an adoption?” “Yes we are!” we replied enthusiastically. “Well two cute little girls just went through here a few minutes ago,” they added cheerfully. We gathered our things and walked to the hallway ahead, stirred by the expectancy in that room.
When we entered the elevator to go to the second floor Courtroom, a woman was already on the elevator. As the door closed, she calmly asked, “are you here for an adoption?” “Yes we are!” we eagerly responded again to this popular question. “Well, I’m the judge who will be presiding,” she told us with obvious delight. We were amazed. She was no Judge Judy! Warm and friendly, she was clearly excited to be part of the process, and she was excited for us.
As we moved to a waiting area outside the courtroom, our daughter, Cathy, and son-in-law, Darren, were there with the two little girls, Miyah and Nailah, ages six and seven respectively, who would soon become officially “family.” Two of their other children – Anna and fiancée, Branden, and Emma – were there too. Their son, Caleb, who was at a conference out of state, was represented by his wife, Cassidy, who had come to support and take pictures. She brought along her daughter, our great-granddaughter, Nora, who added sparkle to the room. A family friend of Cathy and Darren and a member of their church were also there. Our two grandchildren-to-be greeted us heartily as we arrived and sat down to await the call to the Courtroom.
A man sat behind a desk to assure that people who were there should be there, and waited to tell us when we could enter the Courtroom. Miyah and Nailah interrupted his phone and radio conversations occasionally to talk with him, which he seemed to enjoy. He unexpectently blurted out, “this is about the happiest thing that happens here.” We felt sad for those whose experience would not be happy there.
The call came to move to the Courtroom. At the bench was the judge we had met in the elevator. She announced to us, that this was the part of her job she most enjoyed. Each of us was asked to give our names and why we were there, so the Court Recorder could enter it in the record. Mary and I proudly announced we were Cathy’s (our daughter) parents. The judge noted that grandparents were present; I wished I had mentioned that myself. Our two other granddaughters who were present introduced themselves and declared with pride that they were sisters of the adoptees.
The Judge spoke to the Miyah and Nailah, capturing both the joy and seriousness of the occasion. The Judge told them the secretary sitting next to her would be watching how they behaved during the proceedings, and if the secretary was pleased with their conduct they would get to go into the “The Magic Room.” They were intrigued.
Two attorneys questioned our daughter and son-in-law about their lawful and emotional readiness to move from foster parents to legal parents of these two children. As I listened to the judge and pondered all that was taking place, tears welled in my eyes. Emotions of pride in our daughter and her husband for wanting to do this, and reflecting on what this meant for Miyah and Nailah, overwhelmed me. After 1666 days of foster care, they would now be decreed family.
Legal edicts were read and it was declared, by judgment of the court, the children’s names were changed and their parents were now our daughter and her husband – all in less than 60 minutes. As promised, the Judge then invited the two girls to join her behind the bench where she allowed each of them to hold the gavel and pound it with authority – though she cautioned them not to hit it too hard, as one child had broken the gavel. It was then time for pictures with the Judge.
Now the weighty question was posed to the secretary – had the girls earned the right to enter “The Magic Room”? They had. The door opened and they stared at shelves filled with stuffed animals, and each was allowed to pick one.
The birth of each of our grandchildren has brought life-changing joy. This adoption transaction was also jubilant. We love being grandparents. With our newest two we number 10 in our grandchild (and great-grandchild) count, including a granddaughter-in-law; and this summer we are anticipating the addition of a grandson-in-law by marriage, and the birth of a great-grandson. That will make 12! We are pleased and proud of how our younger daughter, Christy, her husband, Stirling, and their children, Sophia, Caden and Chloe, have supported and celebrated this family enlargement. It has been a journey of grace for our family, and it has led us to gratitude.
As we left the courtroom that day, the Judge thanked my wife and me for coming. But I think she knew – we wouldn’t have missed it for anything.