On a September day last year, I heard from our youngest daughter that a friend of hers at school needed somewhere to stay for the weekend. I had spotted this kid around town quite a bit the past week or two. Not fully understanding the reasoning why but I was so drawn to him. A small fourteen year old, usually wearing extra baggy sweatpants and an oversized sweatshirt with the hood up. Occasionally when I passed two big brown eyes would look out from the hood draped over his face and amongst a mop of thick sandy brown hair. These were the only images I was familiar with. Although he had been in our daughter's band class for years, I never remember meeting or seeing him there. I knew his first name only and with that, I began to pray for him. Little could I ever have imagined then, where the road ahead would lead.
On that very same chilly Friday September eve, he came with a small backpack and never left.
What transpired over the days and weeks to come, we pieced together a bit at a time. His birth mom and second legal guardian were residing in different states and neither able to care for him any longer. And so essentially we learned this child was being faced with entering into the foster care system. He remained fiercely loyal to his family even though we had no idea what had really happened. We obtained a lawyer for hourly legal advice, we were completely at a loss of what we were to do and how. We had no legal rights, I could not take him to the doctor when he got sick in November. I couldn't sign school papers for him to participate in activities or to pick him up early if he wasn't feeling well. Sometime between November and the middle of December, the state began a custody case in regards to this boy who had now been in our home for over two full months. After the Christmas festivities, I received my first call from social services. My heart in my throat, unsure of his future, unsure of anything at all. I made my way through the conversation with a shaky voice and tear soaked cheeks. Knowing his life was about to change forever and it could very well be a life without me in it. The court would make all those decisions for him. And me.
Our first court appearance was set for a day in the last week of January. I had met the previous week with the social worker for the first time, she went over every single detail. Realizations of his family and past were made clear to me. It was a world so far from my reality. A lifetime of baggage he was carrying and many things immediately began to make some sense while also leaving me feeling more mixed up, all at the same time. While I never looked at this boy and thought, I sure wish I could save him. I have however wished many times I could've saved him from the past. Somehow if I could wave a magic wand and undo all that had been done and said, maybe then he could still get to be just a kid, for a little while longer. The same day I met with the social worker, she drove me to the courthouse and I petitioned for custody. Completely unfamiliar with this process, she walked me through it step by step. We were given a court date and the following week would be one of the longest of my life. We had never been foster parents, we had never went through all the legalities of what that entailed nor were we cleared for foster care. We were not family or close family friends and we had no other connection to this child. To the court, it appeared as if we were complete strangers and seeking custody. It was a long shot and I was fully aware walking into the courtroom that morning that I may very well have to pack up this boy's bags that afternoon.
A cold January day but the sun was shining rays of hope. My mom rode with me, we arrived extra early. We climbed the stairs together to the second floor of the courthouse and sat quietly for our turn. It is then that I met the attorney that would present the case to the judge, he caught me up on the legal lingo and also prepared me for the worse. I vividly recall telling him, I trust the judge's decision and I will always be here for this boy regardless of the outcome. Soon the court door opened and I was called inside. I sat across from the attorney at a table by myself and in front of the judge. The case was presented and in minutes, emotions were flooding up in relief from my heart and then were written all over my face. Legal temporary custody was ours. I would go through two more court hearings in the months to follow, both of these times with this boy by my side before full custody was awarded.
Incredible the journey of life is. With its twists and turns. Endless hills and some crazy low valleys. Although I never saw another teenager in our near family future, I feel now it's as if our family was not complete until he came in it. Whether born from my body or not, he is my child. The one I prayed for and didn't even know why. While he didn't come with much, I have been unpacking his bags since he arrived. The kind of bags not many can see. Unpacking takes time and the bags are pretty big and heavy. Together we will carry them, put them away when needed, dig them back out, sort and resort and even throw much away. Together. It's a pretty cool thing really. While I have sat back and not said much at times, I have been roaring a bit more these days. Roaring for the child I prayed for. I will cheer for him, stand behind and beside him and always I will be his Madre.
The child I prayed for.