Monday, February 28, 2011

What Was Court Like?


This is a question I've gotten quite a few times since I've been back from our trip to Ethiopia. I thought it might be helpful for others who follow my intermittent blogging to have at least one perspective of what that day is like.

On December 23, we woke early and had another wonderful breakfast at our Guest House. Tsebaye's mom makes great buna, eggs, injera and some other oatmeal-type thing that I never got the name for. After breakfast, we gathered with the other families we were traveling with and waited in the courtyard for our van to come pick us up. I wore a dress I'd bought for D & K's wedding in Jamaica - it had a happy aura! I also wore a beautiful scarf that my dear friend T let me borrow. We all wanted to be sure that we were dressed in a way that would show our respect for the traditions of our children's heritage. Everyone looked bright and shiny!

Once the van arrived, the drive to the court building felt like it took forever. I think it was 30 minutes. We spent another 15-20 minutes standing on the sidewalk waiting for something, though I'm still not sure what. There is a lot of putting your trust/faith in others required on this journey :-). Then we headed into the building...and that's where it hit me.

The second my foot set down inside the courthouse, the emotions that must have been building inside of me the entire week just rushed to the surface. I couldn't breathe, the tears just came. It only lasted a few seconds, but the enormity of what we were about to do...what S's aunt was about to do if she had made was all so overwhelming. Scott was amazing and helped me get centered enough to climb the three floors to the waiting area for the judge's chambers.

At first we lined the hallway...there were so many people there all the seats in the waiting room were full. This is when we started to look around and wonder if S's aunt had made it. We knew that it was a very real possibility that she wouldn't. Gambella is a 3-4 day journey away from Addis. It is not easy for these families to make the trip - financially or emotionally. I was braced for the disappointment that she wouldn't be there and we would miss the opportunity to meet her.

After about 20 minutes, we were able to file into the waiting room and find a seat. As I walked in, I couldn't look around. It seemed like the energy in the room was so conflicted - pain and heartache mixed with anticipation and joy. Then Scott told me to look across the room. I did. On the chair at the end of our row sat a beautiful, young (very young) woman with S's eyes...I knew it had to be her. It had to be S's aunt. This was confirmed when the judge's clerk called her into chambers along with the birth mother of a little boy whose family we'd gotten to know so well over the last few days. Then, so quickly, they came out and our names were called...we went into the chambers with the parents of little E. This was unexpected, to go in with another family but given the number of people waiting outside, I guess it was the only way to get everything done.

We sat in chairs across and next to the judge's desk. She was a lovely young woman with a soft voice. In a matter of 2-3 minutes she asked us just a few questions -
Judge: Do you have other children?
Us: Yes
Judge: Have you discussed the adoption with them?
Us: Yes
Judge: Do you understand that this adoption is permanent and cannot be undone?
Us: Yes
Judge: Congratulations
Well at that point, there were no words. My dear friend and I burst into tears...I still don't know why other than they just needed to come out. The dad's shook hands, and I think there was a man hug there too. We filed out into the waiting room and then into the hall (my tears felt inappropriate for that room). After a minute or two I was able to get control and stop crying. They were definitely tears of sadness for how S had arrived at this place in her life, for her aunt for the most difficult task she'd had to do in the two years she'd been caring for her, and also joy knowing that we would be here for S for the rest of her life - loving and supporting her.

The rest of the day was equally emotional, but that will have to wait for another's another photo from our amazing trip.

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