From the trenches of the court house
I have been trying to be a pillar of hopeful stillness as my close friend and neighbor prepares for a court hearing tomorrow morning. I will testify on her behalf to share what a wonderful parent she is, but in only two hours I fear it will be difficult to offer the judge all that I have witnessed to attest to why her children should be spending more time in her care and less in their father's. To the father, this is about child support and not the well-being of his kids. To her, it is about creating a safe, consistent, healthy, and nurturing environment for her two boys.
I felt first-hand this afternoon the intimidation of the lawyer, calling me to ask me questions about testifying. I have spent time in court rooms myself, going through a tedious and insulting court battle which lasted 9 months and involved a hate crime. I have been deep breathing today to prepare for tomorrow, to let go of all of the anxiety I have felt in a court room. I remember looking up at frosted New England windows and the American flag as a judge called out details of the case I was involved in. I remember tears rolling down my cheeks, even when I told myself not to cry or express the pain I was feeling. And I remember understanding for the first time in my life that the laws in place were not always set up to create justice and freedom, that you are guilty until proven innocent, instead of innocent until proven guilty. I was young then, not that I am not still young, but my spirit was about to undergo a cultivation of strength unsurmounted by most other events in my life.
How to move forward and represent that strength for my friend tomorrow? She has been told by lawyers not to cry in court, that women tend to express themselves too emotionally in the face of justice and that it is not looked kindly upon.
I wish I could simply stand up and say, "Your honor, I have seen the faces of these two children lit by sunlight in the darkest moments they have felt, simply by basking in the presence of their mother. I have overheard conversations between her and her boys that last hours until they feel resolved about being bullied at school, until they are empathetic when they themselves have been bullies. I have seen them dancing throughout the living room and creating villages out of chunks of clay. I have noticed every facial expression they have borrowed from her and their comfort in lying beside her in bed while she reads them Pippi Longstocking. I have seen the eldest quietly wrap his arms around her and tell her first thing in the morning how much he loves her; and the youngest, up at night with her drinking steaming mugs of chamomile with almost an entire bottle of honey squeezed in. I have watched them wake and make pancakes, fresh whipped creme, the eldest has added fresh strawberries to my face-sized pancake because I love the fruity sweetness.
I have hiked with them through mountains and under trees and held onto their hands when the current became too strong while their mother photographed every breath of their journey, at least 15 photos of the little one and his amazing discovery of a cat-tail in the water. I have heard their laughter billowing through open windows and have seen the immense selection of creative devices at their disposal. I have seen them widdling pieces of wood, attach leather strips and glass beads to their creations. They have danced in my living room and fallen asleep in my papasan chair watching anime that will teach them gentle lessons of life and love. They have run alongside my dogs and eaten from my garden.
Your honor, did you know her eldest will ask for a green bell pepper in the grocery store when every other child wants a chocolate bar? Did you know the youngest is gifted and intelligent and a creative mastermind with gentle hands and brilliant eyes the same color of his mother's? Do you know how normal it is to hear singing filling their home? Do you have time for my list of moments where she has pulled them alongside to explain how important it is to build their character, be true to themselves, and be kind toward others? Do you know that when they speak poorly against another she reminds them that their words are tiny gifts, like presents, to be offered to one another? That when one is aching she takes a moment to teach empathy and understanding?
Your honor, I have witnessed them attached to her arms when they were supposed to go to their father's house. The smallest has said his father is angry to often and it is hard to talk to him. The eldest is afraid of hurting his father's feelings and has spent car rides home with him being yelled at, looking out of the window and trying not to cry. When a dog bit the youngest one while at his father's friend's house, the little boy in pain did not cry because he felt he had to be tough around all of the men and boys, and surrendered once at home with his mother. They are young, they have the ability to remain gentle if they are taught the blessing of such a balance. The youngest does not want to play contact sports as much as he wants to be the architect of cities made of bubble gum chimneys and candied bricks. He has notebooks filled up with images and stories pulled straight from his imagination and if cultivated right, he will revel in his creativity and it will be a blessing to the entire world as he grows. Their mother knows this, she knows them, the communicate, they listen to each other, they tell stories, they sing, they dance throughout the house.
I carry these images, memories, moments in my heart and will try to keep them all in mind when a lawyer approaches me and tries to manipulate facts into fable. When I look upon the father in the court room I will think of the brilliant, shining eyes of the small boys and carry love in my heart and speak from a place inside of me that believes in truth and fairness. By tomorrow morning's end, hopefully the judge will modify the parenting time so the majority is with their mother, who is carefully watching them and nourishing them, instead of in the care of their father who sits them in front of television screens, buys his way into their hearts with name-brands and fancy toys, and disappears for weeks at a time on drugs. Hopefully the evidence will speak loudly to the judge and before we even open our mouths, he will see through all of the documentation that one parent is there to avoid paying more money and the other is there out of sheer concern for their well-being.
I share this because too often we talk intensely about the lack of fairness in the legal system without tracking it down to roots, to families, to mothers who are working so hard to teach their children and nourish them, who are entangled in systems that still consider a mother's tears to be a sign of weakness. Tomorrow, the father will have a lawyer because he can afford it and my friend will have me and a few other women testifying on her behalf refusing to feel intimidated by legalities, knowing in our hearts and minds the beauty and enrichment she offers her children and speaking only from that reality.
if the core of my being is compost, my words will be gardens which bloom as I speak.