The courtroom was smaller than I had expected. I had never been summoned to jury duty, subpoenaed as a witness or charged as a defendant, so my only frame of reference was the spacious and well-lit judicial proceeding rooms depicted on Law and Order.
The room I found myself in six years ago did not gleam with polished woodwork. Its wooden benches and railings were scarred and scuffed with years of worried tapping and shuffling.
Instead of well-waxed tile, the floor was made of cold cement painted a dull gray that matched the industrial cinder block walls. As I looked at the black scuffs on the six feet of walkway leading from the door at the back of the room directly to the witness box, I wondered about the people who had made those clumsy marks and what their fate had been following the ruling from the judge who sat at the opposite end of the narrow room.
She was dressed in black robes, like the prestigious judges on my favorite TV dramas, but her seat of honor didn’t look much more comfortable than my own straight-backed, hard, wooden chair. Her position apparently did not afford her the high-backed, padded and leather-upholstered executive chair of Hollywood legal thrillers. It looked more like the heavy slat-backed seat reserved for those on the wrong side of the interrogation table.
I could barely see her–the woman who would make such an important decision for me. The witness box was made for someone much taller, and the top of its ledge reached above my shoulders as I sat behind it, nervously fingering the evidence I’d brought along.
The Hubs had a better view from the box in his seat to my right. He’s a good ten inches taller than me, so he had no problem seeing the rest of the courtroom–the empty jury box to the left and the long desk belonging to the person who would record every word of the conversation to follow.
The problem came when we had to squeeze a third person into the small box with us. We knew we wouldn’t be able to do this without our interpreter, though, so we slid our chairs closer together and made room.
Finally the time had come. The judge read from a document in front of her, and I faintly heard her say something that sounded like a question. The interpreter leaned close and whispered the question in a more familiar language. The Hubs answered with the response we had rehearsed the night before.
After 20 minutes of question/interpret/answer/interpret, I was finally asked for my evidence–a thin book of photographs. I walked toward the judge, handed her the pictures and watched silently as she flipped from one to the other.
After another indecipherable statement, we were led from the courtroom to the equally dreary hallway and another hard wooden bench. There we waited and tried not to think about what we would hear when we saw the judge again.
Soon the door opened and we were led inside once more. I watched the judge in front of me read more papers. When she finally started speaking, the Hubs grabbed my hand.
“It is my decision,” I heard the interpreter parrot, “that these people will be able to provide a better life for this child in the United States than she will have as an orphan in Russia. I grant the request for adoption.”
With that, the judge closed the file and walked from the room. I stared at the Hubs, and together we asked the interpreter, “That’s it?”
She smiled and nodded. “That’s it,” she said. “She’s yours now. You have a daughter. Congratulations.”
With those words, that lackluster courtroom in Kemerovo, Russia, never looked brighter. I finally had a daughter, and today, we are celebrating six years of Forever Family.
Happy Family Day, Young One! Thanks for waiting for me.
**Today’s post was written as response for Blogging University Writing 101 day two assignment: A Room With A View (or Just a View).