Thursday, May 13, 2010

Wendy's Day In Court

May 13. 2005

Friday the Thirteenth. Turns out it's valid in Russia too.

We have a quiet morning, going down for breakfast around 9:30am. The other two families are already there. Sam and Diane have their court hearing today too, right after Wendy. The other couple, Curtis and Justine, were in court on the fifth and are now awaiting the end of their ten days. Diane has her notes out all over the table and is studying furiously. We wish them good luck and go eat.



Afterward, we make a trip to the liquor store attached to the hotel. Don't get judgmental. We go there for Evian water. Well, Wendy goes there for Evian. I buy coke. Wendy buys as many bottles of water as she can carry. On our way back, we run into Curtis. He's from Maine too. He and his wife are adopting two boys and were a rarity in court because Curtis will be the one staying home with the kids. He works from home. He's a taxidermist, which also is a rarity in the Russian courts. He gives Wendy tips for the courtroom (don't cross your legs...the judge doesn't like it) then points us in the direction of the Internet Cafe. We vow to look for it on our next free day.

We go back to the room and play Tetris and The Adventures of Link until it's time to get ready. Then I break out the steamer and Wendy pulls out everything she packed and we work to coordinate the perfect ensemble. She decides on the wool skirt (would've been perfect in February), a black crew neck tee and a white linen shirt (doubling as a sort of blazer) over it. I steam everything and then, while she's getting dressed and pacing back and forth, I give her the Russian Adoption Court Hearing Pop Quiz (tip: beating your children is wrong). She passes with flying colors.

We're down in the lobby at 2:20pm and Katya is there waiting, looking very professional in her court clothes. We go to the car and Sergei takes us to the courthouse. On the way, Katya asks Wendy for some last minute information. I don't do anything but sit. At least I'm good at it.

You have to show your passport (even the locals) and submit to a bag check to get past the lobby. We pass that with flying colors too. Igor (program coordinator guy) comes into the lobby just behind us so we all go up to the second floor together. We end up sitting on a bench at the end of the hall, waiting. Apparently, the judge is running a little late.

Wendy and Katya finally get to go inside and I stay out in the hall. I have Igor and Helen (a woman who does legal work for adoptions) for company. They sit and talk to each other in Russian. I sit and count minutes. In English. I can only count to ten in Russian and it'll take longer than that.

Sam and Diane arrive soon after with their translator. Diane sits next to me on the bench and we talk about what I know about the hearing procedure. It doesn't take long and after a while, we lapse into silence. I count minutes. Diane crosses and uncrosses her legs. Sam shuffles the papers he's holding from one hand to the next. Igor and Helen continue their conversation.

Soon I lose track of the minutes and resort to staring at the door, willing it to open and Wendy to come out.

Then it does happen but not the way I thought. The door opens and Wendy comes out...but she's in tears. And not tears of joy either. Helen and Katya hasten her down a hallway and I am left still sitting but now stunned and freaked. I look to Igor and he tells me I should go. So I run.

Helen and Wendy are sitting on a bench. Katya stands in front of them. I ask her what happened and she tells me the judge has been very unrelenting and doesn't seem to like any of Wendy's answers.

I am at a loss. Mostly I'm mad at the judge for making Wendy cry. I sit down next to her and we both listen to Helen's words of wisdom, as translated by Katya.

She says not to worry. She says it will be all right. It is a very old building and never has a judge said no to an adoptive parent. The judge is just doing her job by asking hard questions and digging deep but it will be all right. Helen calls the hearing the pains of labor and tells Wendy that Friday the Thirteenth will be her lucky day.

They get called back to the courtroom and I return to my bench to wait and worry and cry. No one was talking much to me before but now I have become a complete social leper and no one even looks at me anymore. I think Sam and Diane are worried about what cooties I might be carrying. I don't particularly care about it because I think if anyone did try to talk to me, it would only make the crying worse.



Besides, I'm busy. I'm busy hating the judge, the Russian court system, and then the entire Russian government for good measure (not very mature, maybe, but damn loyal some would say). I'm also busy formulating a contingency plan the best I can so that if the judge is evil enough to return a less than favorable verdict, I will know what to do next because we're sure as hell not going home without Jupiter.

Igor goes into the room and then comes out again. I look at him, hating him by association and because he's in my line of sight. He motions that everything will be fine. I nod when I really want to scream "It won't be fine until Wendy comes out and tells me that it's fine."

This doesn't happen for a long time. I go though an entire package of tissues while I wait. I keep running out of breath and then have to remind myself to take one. I hope they come out before I hyperventilate and pass out.

They do. And it's the right answer, just as Helen said it would be. I breathe easier and cry again, but this time for different reasons. I get to hug Wendy eventually (after Helen) and cry harder- happy relieved beyond all words tears.

Sam and Diane are preparing to go inside and get some last minute coaching from Katya. When the judge asks how long you plan to stay home with your child, the correct answer is "one year, or as long as is necessary" whether that is your plan or not. Lying seems to be a very integral part of the court hearing.

Katya is drained and obviously upset so Helen takes her aside for her own pep talk. When they come back, Katya tells Wendy that Helen has recommended they both have vodka tonight. Helen: the legal advising psychotherapist.

We rest and discuss the weekend's plans. Saturday we will travel to Serov with another family in a nice air conditioned van. We'll rest on Sunday and then move to the apartment on Monday. It works for us, so we go.

When we get back to the hotel, we go and buy Bacardi Breezers and more Evian at the alcohol store. We go to our room and talk to Mom and Omar and Joe and have them spread the word that court was rough, very rough, but we got the right answer in the end. Donna from MAPS calls (Already!) because she heard that court was hard.

Indeed. We're a couple of drained girls right now. I'm drained and all I did was sit on a bench (and plot to overthrow the government should it become necessary...fortunately it didn't because I didn't have much in the way of a plan anyway). I'm mostly still trying to catch my breath. We crack open the Bacardi and learn that warm breezers are gross breezers. We go to bed with bright hopes for tomorrow as we're going to see, for the first official time, one Miss Lina Noelle Jordan.

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