Today was a big day for our family. Although our Congolese son has been legally ours for years and he’s been home for nearly 6 months, today was the day it all became official. More than 5 years since the first documents were filled out, laying the groundwork for a mountain of paperwork to follow, all of those signed, notarized, and filed documents have accumulated into this afternoon’s court appointment.
We met our lawyer in the hallway outside the courtroom. I was unaccountably nervous and running out of ways to explain to Ezra why we were there. How do you tell a 5-year old with limited English that we got his siblings out of school early, got everyone dressed up, went to a place he’d never been before where we had to pass through a metal detector and ride an ancient elevator for a formality?
We already spend some part of everyday telling him that he’s here for good, that he’s ours forever. When he gets mad at me and says “I no love-ee you. I no love-ee ‘Merica,” I try to say with all of the sympathy I can muster: “I know you’re angry but I still love you and this is your home” (or something less sympathetic like: “Too bad, so sad.” It really depends on my mood and if it’s still 90 degrees outside…which it probably is).
When it was time to step into the courtroom, we introduced ourselves to the kind and friendly judge and our lawyer asked us a few questions. She asked if all of our documents were correct. She asked if we were able to take care of our son. She asked if we would allow our son the same rights and inheritance as our other children. She asked if we would promise to look after him and give him a place to live until he turned 18 or finished high school.
These were easy questions. Each “yes” was simple and expected. But there was something monumental about having to say them out loud and under oath.
My friend Julie recently experienced the same event with her son who came to America from the Congo just a few weeks before Ezra. Julie said, “As adoptive parents, we had to promise to bequeath our son our inheritance just like our biological children and we cannot ever disown him (even though we could disown our biological children). Adoption is for keeps. He doesn’t fully realize what it means to be in his forever family, but just like so many in the Bible were grafted into the lineage of Jesus, so our son is now grafted into our family.”
This was a voluntary occasion. Ezra is a part of a family who has been praying and waiting for him. I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to explain the whys of the long process that finally brought us to this afternoon, but he is now forever ours.