Dearest AJ or as I have learned the sweetest name for you, Antoshka, (my darling Antoshka)
Happy Court Hearing Day my Love! It was a chilly rainy morning. Daddy and I walked to the subway station to meet Yulia who would take us to pick up the social worker from the Child Services office and then on to the courthouse.
Now, normally, our walk to the subway station is no biggie. We do it everyday. It's 15ish minutes...in sneakers. Today, in the rain, I was wearing 4 inch heels. My nice tall black pointy toed boots, I reserve for "getting dressed up" for date nights with Daddy...and apparently court hearings. How hard can this be anyway? Ukrainian women wear boots like these everyday and walk much further I'm sure....navigating themselves with ease over 1000 year old brick and cobblestone paths as well as the cracked all to hell and severely uneven and potholed asphalt. I could do it too. The real question was not whether or not I could accomplish this feat but rather, could I accomplish this feat without tripping, falling down, rolling an ankle(s), breaking an ankle(s), etc, etc...
This morning I had curled my hair, makeup on, jewelry in place, ready to go....donned my ultra ugly Columbia parka and out the door we went. At that very moment I had wished I owned one of the many very beautiful fur coats I saw on every other woman that I passed on the street, or at least a pretty, long, streamlined coat with the big fluffy fur collar, instead of covering my court outfit with Iowa ski attire. Ah well, I held my head high and tried to exude an air of confidence. In all reality and honesty, I'm quite sure I embodied the human form of a hippo on stilts in a Columbia parka. Better luck next time, Putz. (Oh, by the way- the walk to the subway took 20ish minutes and I made it, ankles and pride intact.)
Yulia called us to let us know that traffic was a mess and she was not going to make it on time to pick us up at 8:50AM. We decided we would just sit in the McDonald's and wait for her to call. Yulia made it to us at 9:15AM and we were on our way. She assured us that the judge is never on time and would most likely not be there when we got there, so it would be ok if we were late. (Daddy and I were still a bit nervous about that- but before we left that morning, we prayed and said no matter what- we KNOW this day is ENTIRELY in the hands of Jesus. So be it, whatever happens, we will rejoice in the Lord.)
Tatiana, the orphanage director/attorney from your orphanage met us at the court house. We made it inside at 10:03AM. So, we were late. Our hearing was scheduled for 10AM. Yulia spoke with a few people and let us know that the judge was not even in the building yet, so we were fine. Whew! Fine with us.
Daddy and I were ushered into an empty courtroom. It was 10:15AM. The room was old. Peeling layers of paint decorated the walls. The symbol for the country of Ukraine was stenciled and painted above the judge's seat on the wall we faced. Bare lightbulbs, dull lightbulbs, hung from the ceiling, some sockets were missing their companions. Grime streaked all of the windows. The linoleum was bubbling up from the floor and appeared as though it had not been scrubbed in years. We sat on the covered plywood benches and waited for instructions. It was silent. I could hear the tick- tocking of my watch and I became somewhat hypnotized by an older man standing in an open window in the building across from where we waited. I could see him clearly through many seasons of dirt left on the window. He looked tired. The lines on his face and the salt in his pepper hair said times in Ukraine, they are not easy ones. I watched him smoke a cigarette, and maybe for a minute, I wished I had one too. I was jolted out of my own little world I'd created out of necessity when Daddy asked me what time it was. Surely, it was almost 11:00. I looked at my watch and with a heavy sigh, I told Daddy it was 10:20AM.
Tick Tock Tick Tock Tick Tock....
Daddy and I spent time trying to make eachother laugh, alternating with prayer, alternating with words of encouragement to eachother, alternating with complete silence. Tatiana came in to check on us and gave us candy for sustaining nourishment. Though she doesn't speak much English, she said: "This is crazy." Shaking her head and saying too, "I vant to eat. I vant to sleep, but....vell, ve vait." Yes, yes we most certainly vill vait all day if we have to. As long as this day ends with a judge deciding in our favor that you would become our son. I would sit on that bench and wait for as long as was needed. We've come this far, we're not leaving this country without you.
Tick Tock Tick Tock Tick Tock....
I shifted back and forth from taking my coat on and off. It was quite cold waiting in that dimly lit, bare bones, rather sad room. Tatiana came back in, "Maybe time now?" And she motioned us to follow her. We stood outside the courtroom and face 3 closed doors. The only word I could make out was the name Tatiana on the middle door. None of the other words came to me as easily. Yulia was in that room. She walked out and immediately made a phone call. I watched her every step as she spoke rather quietly and paced back and forth. Daddy rubbed my arm to let me know everything was ok. Tatiana must have felt my anxiety starting to rise. I didn't realize I was standing board stiff, shoulders up, hands clenched, knuckles white. Yulia concluded her phone call and spoke to the social worker and Tatiana in Russian. Tatiana motioned to Yulia about how I was standing. Good pick up, Tatiana. Good pick up. Yulia smiled at us and let us know everything was ok. This particular judge was the only one who took adoption cases and seemed to enjoy making parents wait...and perhaps sweat a bit. She was late in coming and took all of her other cases ahead of us simply because, she was the judge and she could. We were told that she does not smile and will have a very flat affect when we speak to her. "Don't be scared," Yulia said, "You'll be fine. This is normal procedure for this judge. It's just the way she is, so we deal with it. It will be all worth it when it's done." Fine by us. As long as her last words were, take your kiddo home or something to that effect, we were good.
12:30PM. Two and a half hours after our court appointment, we watched a raven haired beauty step out of the judge's chambers. Tatiana's chambers. Our judge's name. Her chambers. That's what was hidden behind door number 2. "Pootz?" Yulia, Tatiana, and the social worker stepped forward and ushered us into the little room with them. Judge's chambers? It was more like a principal's office. But, then again, I guess I didn't really know what to expect. As we entered, the judge looked me up and down as I took the seat nearest her but kitty corner to where she was seated at her desk. She cracked a quick smile at me when our eyes met, then turned away toward her papers. Her smile back to an expression of all seriousness and authority. Yulia began translating a lot of judicial language to us. We heard a lot of "The court" and "This petition...." Daddy was asked to stand first and answered questions, simple ones. His name, year of birth, address, yearly salary, why did we want to adopt from Ukraine, and what our motives were to adopt you. My turn came and I was asked my name, date of birth, place of employment, other available resources that we have available to care for you and give you a proper life. Very easy. The social worker stood up when asked and expressed how she felt our petition to adopt you was reasonable as you had been registered for adoption for the required length of time and that no one had previously inquired about fostering or adopting you, including Ukrainian families. Tatiana then stood and said that you were a true orphan as your birth mother had passed away and according to her words in the maternity records, your father was unknown. She said that you had lived in the Boyarka baby house since you left the hospital as a baby and no one had ever come to visit you. No one had ever asked about you. She also said that it was nothing short of amazing to her to see how much you had already bonded with us and were opening up to us. She never expected to see this happen between the 3 of us in such a short period of time. All of those words, though working in our favor to become your parents, cut right through us. But, to survive this game and come out breathing, you have no other choice than to save those wounds for debridement and bandaging at a later time. For right now, we had to tie them off in the far recesses of our brains to stop the bleeding and wrap them up the best we could with the dirty rags of what we knew. Daddy and I were asked to stand before "the court" and state we both were completely aware of your medical diagnosis. "Yes." We were asked what we were petitioning the court for? "We ask the court to allow us to be named the parents of Anton Anatolyovich Kremanchuk. We ask the court to allow Anton's patronymic name to be removed from his birth record and that his name be legally changed to Anton John Putz. We ask the court to keep Anton's known birthdate and place of birth. We ask the court that we, Christopher John and Leann Carolyn Putz be named parents of Anton John Putz." The judge said at that time, Yulia translated to us, "At this time, the court will recess and will reconvene with decision of this case." As she was stating this, we were being shooed out of her chambers with a rather wanton wave of her hand. She did not look up. Tatiana smiled at me and gave me a thumbs up. "Is that it?" I whispered as I stepped through the doorway. I really don't know why I felt it necessary to whisper that to someone I knew full well did not speak English. Yulia was grinning from ear to ear when we were back in the waiting area. "Congratulations! That's it. You wait 2 and a half hours for 10 minutes." The social worker and Tatiana were beaming at us. I couldn't contain myself. In 4 inch heels, I jumped up and down a few times, clapping my hands excitedly but softly, and whispering "YAAAAAAAAAY" with much exaggeration. If it would have been okay to yell "YES!!!" from the top of my lungs, and throw in a few fist pumps, I would have. I decided against it. Daddy had the biggest, proud Papa smile spread across his face. His entire face was glowing. His eyes, and mine as well, were hot and reddened. We linked arms and followed our fearless crew out of the building. Stealing quiet glances from eachother, marked with knowing grins, I heard Daddy say, "Thank you Jesus. Thank you."
Yes, Thank you Papa. What a glorious day You've given to us. We are forever humbled that You chose us. From before time began, You already chose this for us. And we are forever grateful for this most good and perfect gift.
To the moon and back we love you, AJ.... finally,though always in our hearts, but now on paper, our son.
Mommy and Daddy