Marissa’s earliest memory of family was that of sitting crosswise on her mother’s lap while being rocked in their room. She and her mother had come to live with her grandparents and youngest uncle. She remembered her mother rocking her to comfort her during a bout with fever, wiping her cheeks and forehead with a cool washcloth throughout the wee hours of the morning, softly humming songs of comfort even when her mother would have to be at work in a very few hours. This had been her family for much of the first four years of her life. She felt loved.
At age five, her mother was going places without her a couple of nights a week. Then, Marissa started being taken places with her mother and her mother’s friend, Carl. Marissa thought this was great fun because they always went to a skating rink or a children’s amusement park. She never felt in-the-way.
One evening when Carl was taking Marissa and her mother home from skating, he turned to face Marissa in the backseat. “Marissa, I need to ask you a question.”
“Okay,” Marissa replied with childlike brevity.
“Marissa, I love your mommy and I want to marry her, but I won’t ask her until I know how you would feel about that - for me to be part of your family, I mean. Would it be okay with you if I married your mommy?”
All that afternoon, Marissa’s thoughts had been full of skating, falling, and skating some more. She wasn’t really sure how to answer this sort of question so she replied, “Can I think about it?”
“Sure, Marissa. You take all the time you need.”
Over the next few days, Marissa casually asked her mother questions about what their lives would be like if she married and if she would still be able to be with her mother. Then, she asked her mother the question that would really set the way for how she would feel, “Mommy, do you want to marry him?”
“Yes, honey, I do. I love him very much and I know that he loves me. But, more importantly - I know that he loves you very much, too. I would never marry anyone who didn’t love you. I think he would be a great daddy.”
“Okay, mommy. Tell him we’ll marry him.”
A few months after the marriage, Marissa found herself going through a process she understood nothing about. She didn’t know why her mommy and Carl looked so intent. All she did know was they were in some big building, sitting in a big room with lots of wood everywhere - dark, reddish, pretty wood. They sat in three large chairs with Marissa in the middle. There was a man in a suit sitting behind a large desk. When he looked at her, he smiled, so she thought he must be nice. She tried to sit still while the adults talked. She knew her mommy would want her to. Finally, all the talk seemed to be over, when, instead, the judge talked directly to her, scrutinizing her intently. “Marissa, it hasn’t been long since Carl joined you and your mother. He has come today requesting a different change in your life. He wants to adopt you. I want to hear from you how you would feel about him becoming your father.”
“It’s okay with me,” Marissa replied without hesitation.
“Can you tell me what makes you think it would be okay?”
“Well, he’s nice and we have lots of fun.”
“Do you think he loves you?”
“Yes, he’s told me so. And, he does all kinds of things to help me and mommy.”
“Do you love him?”
“Yes. I love him most because he makes mommy so happy.”
A short time later, Marissa, her mommy and, now, daddy left the judge’s office. As usual, Marissa was in the middle with each of them holding a hand.
“Now we’re a real family, aren’t we daddy.” Marissa watched as a broad smile crossed the width of his face when she finished the word ‘daddy’. He picked her up and hugged her tightly as they made their way toward the elevators.
“Yes we are, honey. Yes we are.”
She had no doubt she was loved. She looked from her mommy to her daddy. It would take some time for her to understand how you could have wet eyes while smiling so big.
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