We woke up early and snuggled up with Squirrel in her bed. “Happy Gotcha Day!” we cheered, covered her face with kisses while she squealed. She opened the card with the kitty holding a heart (her two favorite things right now) and really took in the words we wrote—how we’ll love her forever, how she can’t get rid of us now, how we’re so happy to have her in our family. She opened the heart necklace on a gold chain and put it on immediately.
We moved into the living room where I’d set up three tiny candles. They were inside robin eggs, forming a nest. When my dear friend gave them to us on the day Squirrel came a year ago, I knew I’d wait and light them on Adoption Day. We each took an egg candle and lit them one at time before adding them back into the nest. This simple, quiet ritual was my favorite part of the whole day.
We put on the special outfits that we’d modeled for each other in a fashion show the week before. Fuchsia and gold, blues and purples. We ate egg pie with broccoli, curled our hair. None of us had ever gotten ready for an Adoption Day before. It was a weird and mystical holiday that we’ll celebrate every year from now on. We were “nervouscited” as my daughter would say.
We parked by beautiful Lake Merritt. We walked up to the Alameda Superior Courthouse and were intercepted by an expressive arts therapist with a purple ribbon wand. Our superhero friend, Phil performed an interpretative dance right there on the street in downtown Oakland. We all cheered and felt the love. We went through security. We took the elevator to the 7th floor where we met up with our social worker and began the 45 minutes of waiting our turn. There were three other adoptions that morning and it was first come, first served.
As we sat in the heat of the echoey building, I noticed our daughter started to leave her body. Her eyes glazed over. She winced every time her photo got taken by the photographer we’d hired. The amazing community we had with us—a Go Girl teaching artist, two grandmas, and dear friends with their adopted toddler—rallied and gave Squirrel snacks, toys to play with, hugs, presents and chances to run around and burn off steam.
When our turn came, I gave Squirrel a chance to ride piggyback into the huge courtroom. I could see she was terrified. “Mama, this is hard,” she whispered in my ear. We raised our right hands and promised to tell the truth. Then, our judge came to get us—a sweet, older man in a long black robe. He led us all into his cozy office. He was an absolute dear. When Squirrel wanted a chance to sign all the paperwork, he let her. He waited patiently as she drew pictures of Christmas trees all around her name. He told jokes about how adopted kids are just like all other kids- they still have to clean their rooms. Then, he asked if Lynn and I promised to be her forever parents and take care of all her needs. We did. We do. We will. Always.
We went to feed the ducks at the lake while Mama Lynn paid the final court fees and signed more paperwork downstairs. She walked up to a window under the “Adoption” sign. It was positioned directly next to a window under the “Restraining Orders” sign. Not everyone in court was there to celebrate.
We ate lunch on the dock and Squirrel came back into herself, flirting with the waiter and pretending to take all our orders by scribbling in a Hello Kitty notebook. We opened the beautiful gifts from my mom—a silver jewelry box with Baby Girl’s new official name and the adoption date. And a silver frame engraved with our new family name. The Johnson-Kenny’s.
The rest of the day was a blur of naps and wine and dancing and hugging as many friends stopped by to love on us. We read Squirrel cards and texts from cousins, Aunties, Grandparents. She smiled again and again as she repeatedly got welcomed into the family. She stayed up past her bedtime, ate too much sugar and ended the evening in tears…evidence that Adoption Day truly is a holiday.
We gave birth. The labor pains were worse than I could have imagined but I already forgot them. It’s a girl. A beautiful, strong, creative, hilarious, fierce little girl. And she is really, truly ours. For better or worse.