I sat in court yesterday waiting for my client to be released from jurisdiction. A gaggle of lawyers and a host of family members convened for the occasion. My client and her three-year-old would be the only ones let out of the Court’s scrutiny. Her mother and sisters would remain involved with the quest for clarity.
The moment came, the Court nodded, and away we all went, leaving behind three girls and their hopeless mother. Other days would follow when those children would find permanency. For my client and her child, guardianship with a relative had been granted in another courtroom, marking the end of a two-year saga in Juvenile Court and my involvement.
I trailed out of the courtroom, spoke briefly on the sidewalk to another lawyer whose involvement in the case ended with the Court’s ruling, and then got in my car. I stared at a message on my phone. I started the engine with its almost soundless purr. I thought about the day that I had taken my client to lunch at a Chinese restaurant near the foster home where she lived at the time. She had laughed, standing on the sidewalk outside that odd little Chinese fast-food place. I asked her what was funny. She said, I’ve never eaten in a restaurant with a white lady before, and then smiled, nervously, wondering if her honesty would anger me. It did not.
Another time, I took my client shopping to reward her for not running away, one of her proclivities. I watched her rifling through clothes on a rack, looking for her size, searching for the color she wanted, sliding her eyes in my direction. Can I get a top to go with this skirt, she asked, expecting me to disappoint her. I nodded, and the flash of her grin melted my heart.
I promised her another shopping trip when she graduates high school. She’s a year or more behind her grade-level — not from lack of intelligence, ability, or encouragement, but because she never learned to be a child. She cared for her younger siblings and then got pregnant by a young man one or two years older who ended up in prison before the child’s birth.
I drove home from court yesterday thankful for the cousin who volunteered to be my client’s custodian and the custodian of her child. Not every story has a happy ending; not every child can be released from jurisdiction. Every once in a while, though, something good happens, and I am no longer needed.
On the way home from Juvenile Court, the problems with which I grapple daily rose to claim my attention. Same story, different day. I still struggle with everything that has dragged me down for decades, still push back, still strive not to complain. I felt the salty tears on my cheeks. Some of us never get that judge’s gavel, releasing us, sending us into the rest of our lives without his supervision. Some of us cannot seem to effect that much change. But we keep trying.
It’s the twenty-fourth day of the thirtieth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.