Thursday, September 30, 2010

Perry Mason, Part Three (In which the tide of the battle begins to turn)

Written Sunday, 12 September 2010

When we first arrived in Aaron’s country back in July, we didn’t plan on leaving him again. We fully expected to bring him home on that first trip. We had already had our share of trouble getting our dossier together, but we knew that we would have more help now that we were in country. Most of the adoptive couples we’d read about looked at court as a formality, the result a foregone conclusion. We believed that the hardest part was behind us.

But our adoption was different from that of a lot of those other couples. Our Aaron was no longer in a baby house, from which children under 5 come and go frequently. He had already been transferred to a mental institute for older boys, from which adoptions are rare. No one had ever been adopted from his internat. In fact, no American had ever spent a night in his village before. In this village without hotels, our facilitator Luda scrambled to find us lodging. After she placed us in the home of a lovely retired woman, a friend of the internat director’s, she rushed from building to building trying to get a head start on all of the paperwork. We rumbled over rutted roads with her, trying to get everything signed and notarized as quickly as possible. She rushed off to the capital in the dead of night, then returned. She was working as quickly and efficiently as anyone could.

When the time came to apply for a court date, however, even Luda was stopped in her tracks. The village judge was sick, unavailable; and there was no approved jury list. The judge’s office and the town council feuded over who was at fault. Luda carried communication back and forth between them, trying to resolve the matter so that we could get a court date. Two weeks after we arrived in the country, she approached us in the evening. She had been in contact with the head of her legal team, and their advice was to go home. There was no way to know how long it might take to get a court date. We were forced to leave Aaron behind, go home and wait.

While we were gone, Luda and the facilitation team worked hard for us. As soon as the judge returned from sick leave, Luda raced back down here to meet him in his chambers. His mind was on his upcoming two-month vacation, which was starting the next day. He wanted to hear the case after his vacation, but Luda finally convinced him to pass our case off to a judge in the closest district. At first, we thought this was a victory because it moved our court date up by two months. That was before we met this judge.


(Rob writing)

We now present the third installment of our exciting series...

When our heroes arrive back at court in the nick of time, Luda and the legal team are in high gear. Supposedly, the judge sent to Aaron’s home town two weeks ago for a document certifying that he had no other siblings available for adoption. Luda has called around in our heroes’ absence, and no one knows anything about the judge’s request. Luda has formulated a plan to race down to Aaron’s home town, beg someone to produce the document immediately, then return with it to court the next day to satisfy the judge’s request.

The legal team has another idea. The attorney wants our heroes to go to the judge in her chambers and beg. Luda gets involved, and coaches our heroes in what they must say: “Your honor, for the sake of our boys back home, and because time is of the essence in Aaron’s medical care, please do not delay your decision. We request that you rule in our favor as soon as possible.”

Begging sounds just fine to our heroes. Groveling sounds fine, too. They would even consider kissing the judge’s shoes-- but only after carefully washing off the vomit from Perry Mason, part 2.

They repair with Luda to the judge’s chambers. Luda spits out the entire request without our heroes ever uttering a word. The judge seems a bit more kindly in chambers than in the courtroom. She takes a close look at Julia, then at Perry.

Judge: You do not feed your wife enough.

Perry and Julia: (!!??)

Julia: My mother was small, all of the women in my family are small-boned. My lummox of a husband makes me look small because he’s the size of a billboard…

Perry: She won’t eat! She gets all of the food she wants. In America, all of the women want to be thin, it is a mark of beauty. And she produced two beautiful children.

Judge: How much do you weigh?

Julia: About 110...(in truth she might be down to 98 by now due to stress caused by this very judge)

Perry: (calculating with lightning speed) About 50 kilograms.

Judge: (in disbelief) Humph.

The judge waves everyone out of the room.

Back in the courtroom, Luda tells our heroes that the next session will be the “debates.” She tells them to expect most of the same questions to be asked again. She’s expecting trouble, and she’s almost hoping the judge will reject the adoption outright so that she can appeal to another court and get away from this judge forever. This judge has never yet done things the easy way; she has always had one more monkey wrench to throw into the works and jam the gears. No one believes that the judge has been swayed by our heroes’ heartfelt pleas.  Perry and Julia brace themselves for more hours of questioning.

The judge reenters. More legal drudgery. Then she speaks to Perry.

Judge: What is your petition for the court?

Perry: We ask to adopt the child as our son, to change his name on his birth certificate to Aaron Vanya Nalle, and to place our names on his birth certificate as his parents. (Perry sighs with relief that he was able to remember all of this with just a bit of prodding from Luda.)

The judge repeats the name, struggling with the pronunciation of “Aaron.”

Both Perry and Julia repeat the name helpfully, and she tries again, still with difficulty. These folks don’t really do long “a” sounds.

Judge to Julia: Do you agree with the petition?

Julia: I do agree (gratefully, because she’s not sure she could spit it all out as smoothly as Perry just did).

Judge: What will you call him?

Julia: Aaron VANYA Nalle (stress on the native name).

Our heroes quietly congratulate themselves for retaining one of his native names, certain that it will score at least a few points with this patriotic judge.

Judge: Does the prosecuting attorney have anything to say?

Prosecutor: The prosecution has no objection to the petition.

Perry and Julia: (!!??)

Apparently, the legal team has done some effective wrangling. Two weeks ago, this prosecutor was very skeptical about this whole proceeding and supported the judge when she insisted that Aaron must come to court. Today, she has announced her full support without raising a single objection.

Perry and Julia steel themselves for the next round of questioning.

Judge (rising): I will now retire to my chambers for deliberation.

Perry, Julia and Luda: (!!??)

Perry and Julia have learned to expect the unexpected from this judge. Luda is stunned. Perry and Julia tentatively believe that this turn of events can only be good.

A looong time passes. Perry and Julia pace the courtroom, examining the unoccupied steel cage reserved for criminal defendants. It has two vertical-backed, short-seated benches specifically designed for maximum discomfort. It’s as shabby as everything else in the building.

The judge calls for Luda, who returns and calls for Julia. The judge has dug through her toolbox and found another monkey wrench. On our heroes’ marriage license, Julia’s name is listed as “Julia E. Arnold.” What on earth could the “E” stand for, the judge wants to know? What dark secrets about her identity could Julia be concealing? Might she have concealed an earlier marriage?

Julia dutifully reports to the judge’s chambers.

Judge: Please explain the “E” on your marriage license. Why is there a discrepancy between your two names?

Julia: The “E” stands for Ellen. I had two given names, Julia and Ellen. The second was in honor of my grandmother. When I married my husband, I took his last name and made my old family name my middle name.

Judge: So “Arnold” is your last name?

Julia: No, it was my maiden name. Before I was married, my name was Julia Ellen Arnold. It is common practice in our country to retain the maiden name as the middle name in honor of our father’s family.

The judge finds this confusing. So does everyone else in the room: the judge’s assistant, one of the jurors, the prosecutor. They don’t understand the absence of the patronymic, and they find this American name-juggling suspicious (they have a natural tendency toward suspicion already).

Judge: So what is your name?

Julia: It is Julia Arnold Nalle.

Judge: (continued confusion)

Judge’s assistant: What happened to “Ellen?”

Julia: My name legally changed when I married. I dropped “Ellen” and made “Arnold” my new middle name, so my married name is Julia Arnold Nalle.

Judge: Humph.

Judge (after a long awkward pause): Do you really understand what you are doing in taking on such a child? You will have to care for him for the rest of your life. You can never leave him.

Julia: I will be a Mom to Aaron forever, in the same way that I am a Mom to my other two sons. I would never consider leaving them, and I would never consider leaving Aaron either.

The judge and everyone else interrupt. Un-translated comments fly rapidly around the room.

Julia (fighting to be heard): I understand that we are taking on a big responsibility. We have spent a lot of time in prayer and discussion about this discussion. We know that there will be issues in caring for Aaron. We have read books, sought counsel and done as much research as we can to help us know how best to care for Aaron. We have a loving and supportive family behind us, and we have quite a number of friends who have encouraged us in this adoption.

Julia considers telling the judge about the thousands of bowed heads behind her, but refrains. More un-translated comments float around the room. Julia waits and wonders what is being said, wonders if her words have any meaning to anyone here.

Then the judge drops her bombshell:

Judge: I adopted two children.

Julia: (Surprised, but not entirely; she has suspected that this judge has a story of her own) Really?

Judge: It did not go well. They have never been grateful, and it has torn our family apart. My older children have never gotten along with my adopted girls. They have been nothing but trouble since I brought them home.

Julia (slack-jawed): Aaah…

Judge: How are you going to benefit from this adoption? Are you going to get paid for him through your government? (expressions of interest from around the room)

Julia (still reeling from the bombshell): We will receive no financial benefits for our adoption of Aaron. Our state does not provide any payments for a child who is adopted internationally.

Judge: Do you have medical benefits?

Julia: We have medical insurance and Aaron will be covered by our medical insurance, which we purchase privately. And although we won’t receive payments from the government, we have been promised medical benefits for Aaron through Shriners Hospital. We will be taking Aaron to one of these hospitals, and they will cover all medical expenses related to his arthrogryposis. This includes treatments, therapies, transportation and lodging for him and his family. (nods of approval and un-translated comments from around the room)

Judge: Where does this hospital get the money to do all of this?

Julia: The Shriners are a group of men who care about children who are born with problems like Aaron’s. They are a private charity organization, and they raise money privately. They have a large endowment. They have several hospitals across the United States. The one in Philadelphia, which is closest to our home, also happens to be the best one for Aaron’s arthrogryposis. (more nods and un-translated comments)

Judge: Humph.

Julia: (fearfully) I admire you for adopting two girls.

Luda to Julia: What?

Julia: Tell her I admire her greatly for adopting.

Luda: (suggests with her eyes that Julia is insane)

Julia: Please tell her. (Luda translates)

Judge: Humph.

Julia: How old are your girls?

Judge: 17 and 18. Do you want to meet them? (She picks up the phone to call them. The room explodes in conversation and laughing.)

Julia: I would love to meet them.

Judge on the phone: (un-translated)

Julia and Luda are waved out of the judge’s chambers. They return to Perry and the legal team, who have been left to wonder what was happening. Luda is feeling more hopeful after the exchange in chambers. Julia is swallowing bile. Exhaustion and hunger are apparent in everyone.

A half hour later, the door in the back of the courtroom opens. Perry, Julia and Luda are beckoned. Standing in the hall are the judge and her two adopted daughters. Perry and Julia get 20 seconds to say hello and compliment the judge on their beauty. Nothing else of substance is exchanged. Perry is virtually excluded from the meeting; he has hardly reached the hall when the girls move on. Perry is reminded of a thought that has occurred to him often since this whole affair began: adoption is a woman’s business. The men sit on the sidelines while the women carry the ball. In the end, all of Perry’s planned courtroom fireworks will come to nothing. The heart of the matter, all day, has been to show this judge the true and good heart of his wife.

But has Julia succeeded in proving her good intentions? Find out in our exciting conclusion, next episode. Don’t forget to tune in.


  1. Hello! I have been following your journey since your first trip to Aaron. I have to remind myself this a true story and not just a thriller! Can't wait until the next episode! And now along with prayers for your family, I will keep the judge and her family in prayer, too. Sounds like they could use it!

  2. What I want to know is "do you guys stay up all night thinking this stuff up?" Very suspenseful and exciting-I'll tune in again tomorrow.

  3. Truly gripping. Even knowing the outcome, I am on the edge of my seat.

  4. WOW. Just wow. That is amazing that the Judge was honest enough to share that with you . . .and yes, I'm sure that was behind her concerns and hesitancy. And Julia, WAY TO GO for being led by the SPirit of God to reach out to her heart and give her approval for adopting. She probably needed to hear that. If her life was stressful and without much local support or approval, she probably needed the support of another woman.

  5. I laugh every time I read the "Humph" from the judge. I can laugh now because I know the ending, praise God... but I can just picture a judge "humphing" the whole way. Oh how I pray no judge humphs at me. I also always picture the judge as an old man, so I was shocked to read he is a she.
    Oh I get so stressed reading through this journey. I am SOOOOOOOOOOOO thankful it all went through in the end. Your love shows through the fight you went through to get to this point, and I wonder if the judge saw that?

  6. hurry UP man! you in american now where we dont like waiting!! truly I love the way you have written your story of Aaron's adoption.

  7. Quite the writers....I can't stand the suspense!!!!

  8. This is such a cool way of writing about your court date! It's much more interesting than mere facts, and I think that as you read this again in later years, that the memories created will be more vivid. Way to go, Perry!

  9. Wow! Look forward to the next part ;).


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