[From time to time, I will illustrate my story characters with: Richard Armitage as Sam Wakeforest, Marcia Gay Harden as Sam’s older sister Tessa Wakeforest Shoop Delaney, and Emily Deschanel as Tessa’s sister-in-law Olivia Delaney Wakeforest, Viola Davis as Pauletta Perkins, Cicely Tyson as Nellie Newton, Anna Sophia Robb as Alice Trent, Kevin Spacey as Roger Delaney, Sam Heughan as Todd Wakeforest, Idris Elba as Dominic Perkins, the late Polly Holliday as the Waitress Madge, Donald Sutherland as Aldus Warren, Teri Polo as Lillian Warren, and Ewan McGregor as David Warren, and others as noted.]
Author’s Content Note: “Love in the Great Pine Woods” is a mature love story with dramatic themes of love and relationships. It will mostly be at the PG and PG-13 movie levels. Specific chapters or passages may have a further rating of: L for language, D for dramatic emotions, and S for sensual themes. And I will rate the chapters accordingly. If you are unable or unwilling to attend a movie with the ratings that I provide for a chapter, then please do not read that chapter. This is my disclaimer. And as is my habit, I will summarize the previous chapter’s events at the beginning of the next chapter.
Author’s Recap from the Previous Chapter: Celebrating their foster son Bobby’s two year old birthday last Saturday was just a precursor to the main event for Roger and Tessa Delaney—adopting both Bobby Trent and his now fifteen year old sister Alice Trent.
“Love in the Great Pine Woods”, Ch. 34 (PG-13, D): Becoming a Real Family
Monday, May 30th, 1956 will be a very full day for the extended Delaney and Wakeforest Families. The first part will be to extend their family even more—with Roger and Tessa Delaney adopting their foster children fifteen year old Alice Trent and her two year old brother Bobby Trent at the Wakeforest County Courthouse—before going on to celebrate the adoptions and today being Decoration Day [(2)].
Tessa is a little bit nervous today. Not at the prospect of becoming Alice’s and Bobby’s real mother, but because this is a legal proceeding where others are involved. It is not cut and dried. And when the Wakeforest County Orphanage Director and Social Worker Pauletta Perkins warmly greets Roger and Tessa Delaney and the children at the courthouse, Tessa can tell that Mrs. Perkins is keeping something back while they wait in the reception area for their adoption case to be called into court.
But it is not until Sam and Olivia arrive as family support, that Mrs. Perkins can take Roger and Tessa aside in a quiet corner of the reception area to speak to them privately while Sam and Olivia stay with the children.
Tessa: “What’s wrong? Won’t the adoption happen today?” Tessa asks Pauletta Perkins worriedly.
Mrs. Perkins: “I hope that everything will go according to plan. It is just that there has been a … complication.” Mrs. Perkins looks hesitantly at both Tessa and Roger.
Roger: “Oh? And what is that? We have passed all of our home and parenting tests. Surely we are an exemplary couple as adoptive parents.” Roger states a bit arrogantly.
Tessa: “Roger! Don’t go all high handed. The judge doesn’t care that you’re a prominent businessman.”
Mrs. Perkins: “Actually, the issue is not with the judge, but with a deposition that was entered into the record regarding the family custody rights of Alice and Bobby.”
Tessa: “But they have no family. That is why they ran away from the social aide people who wanted to adopt Bobby away from Alice.”
Mrs. Perkins: “It turns out, that is not entirely accurate. It seems that a Mrs. Mary Dow—the sister-in-law by marriage of Alice and Bobby’s Mother Mrs. Alene Dow Trent, the late Mrs. Trent’s also now deceased brother Harry Dow—has come forward to question the adoption.”
Roger: “To question it! This is intolerable!” Roger blusters. And Sam, Olivia, and Alice’s heads turn toward the corner where Roger, Tessa, and Mrs. Perkins are conversing.
Tessa: “Pipe down, Roger. We don’t want to upset the children.” And, Tessa thinks, I don’t want him to upset me either.
Mrs. Perkins: “Yes, let’s everyone calm down. This Mrs. Dow is not prepared to assume custody of the children. But she does want to insure that they are being well cared for.”
Roger: “Oh I understand.” His eyes narrow shrewdly. “This Mrs. Dow has somehow found out that we are wealthy and wants to blackmail us into giving her money in exchange for her giving up her rights of custody.”
Mrs. Perkins tilts her head and shakes her head because she does not know the motives of Mrs. Dow.
Tessa: “We don’t know that. Maybe she is truly concerned.” Tessa grasps at hope.
Roger: “You are naïve to think that, Tessa. Sadly, I have seen a much less honorable side of life from time to time.”
Mrs. Perkins: “We are getting ahead of ourselves. The judge asks that we three and Alice meet with Mrs. Dow in his chambers to discuss the situation.”
Tessa: “Oh Pauletta, we won’t lose Alice and Bobby, will we? I couldn’t bear it!”
Tessa tears up and covers her mouth to stifle her sobs. Roger puts his arm around her back to comfort her.
Roger: “Tessa, everything will work out alright. I promise you.” Roger feels that he cannot fail Tessa in this one thing that she has asked of him—to become Alice’s and Bobby’s parents.
Tessa: “But you can’t promise that. Just you saying it will work out, won’t make it happen.” Tears are streaming down Tessa’s eyes.
Mrs. Perkins: “Tessa, we have to do this meeting in five minutes. So I suggest you go to the ladies room and splash some water on your face. Then we will all go in there and face this together. Remember, Mrs. Dow is not going to ask for custody, so at worst, this development might simply delay your adoption proceedings for a few weeks.”
Unfortunately, Mrs. Perkins knows well that this recently revealed Dow-Trent family member could forestall the adoptions completely. But she is trying to be positive for the Delaneys.
After Roger has a brief chat with Sam and Olivia and Alice about the change in plans, he feels that Alice [(3) right] is being rather stoic about the whole thing. Whereas Sam and Olivia look duly worried—as is he. Bobby at two years old is too little to comprehend the gravity of what being adopted means—as well as what might being prevented from being adopted means.
Tessa rejoins them and they all are shown into the chambers of by Judge Millard Barclay—he moonlights as judge for adoption days, when he isn’t usually sitting on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Sam and Olivia are only allowed to join them because they agreed to sit quietly in the back and not interrupt while they hold Bobby. There is also a stenographer in the room to transcribe the proceedings.
Judge Barclay: “Mr. and Mrs. Delaney, Mrs. Perkins, and Alice. We have some unusual circumstances today that need to be addressed before the consideration of the adoption can proceed.”
Alice: Looking very tired and wan, Alice nods. “I know, they said that Aunt Mary has turned up.”
Mrs. Perkins: “So you remember your Aunt Mary Dow? Your Mother’s brother’s wife?”
Alice: “Only a little. Before they moved away—and when Mommy was still alive—I visited them a few times. Aunt Mary made me eggs and toast with jelly.”
Judge Barclay: “You don’t remember more about her?”
Alice: “No, Sir. I was maybe five years old. Bobby wasn’t even born yet.”
Tessa: Embracing Alice, she whispers into her ear. “Everything will be alright. Mrs. Perkins says that Mrs. Dow doesn’t want to gain custody of you and Bobby.”
Alice: “Then what does she want?”
Judge Barclay: “That is what we will find out. If everyone will please take a seat and remain quiet, I will have my clerk bring Mrs. Dow in here to my chambers.”
Everyone sits and the clerk leaves the room for a few moments. When the clerk returns, he is accompanied by a petite middle aged woman dressed quite nicely, thinks Tessa. Tessa also notices that the woman’s jewelry is very sparing—just wedding rings and earrings. Mrs. Dow scans the room and sees Alice who is not looking up at the moment—since Alice is quite overwhelmed. But Mrs. Dow smiles at the young girl, nonetheless. The judge gestures to a chair for Mrs. Dow to sit in and she does so.
Judge Barclay: “Mrs. Dow, as you know, your niece and nephew Alice and Bobby Trent have been fostered by this couple here for the past six months. And this couple hopes to adopt them.”
By usual practice, adoptive parent identities are not divulged unless the parties give their permission. And Roger and Tessa Delaney have not had the opportunity to waive their right to privacy, so the judge extends it to them as a default choice.
Mrs. Dow: “Yes. And I have been told that their foster parent evaluation reports are exemplary.” Mrs. Dow nods, but she is clearly feeling distressed as she fidgets with a linen handkerchief in her hands.
Both Roger’s and Alice’s heads look up—Roger because Mrs. Dow used the word exemplary as he did just a few minutes ago, and Alice because the lady’s voice sounds familiar.
Alice: “Aunt Mary?” Alice asks quizzically.
Mrs. Dow: “Yes, Alice Dear. You’re looking so well. I’m glad.”
Judge Barclay: The judge taps his gavel once. “If everyone would please refrain from speaking to each other directly in this ex parte manner, we might get through this quicker. I will ask questions of particular individuals and you will direct your answers to me.”
Mrs. Dow: “Yes, of course, your Honor.” She nods respectfully.
Then the judge looks around the room and everyone else nods. He has their future happiness in his hands. So they must do this his way. Roger and Tessa are sitting quite rigid, holding each others’ hands with each one also holding the hand of one of their foster kids. And two year old Bobby [(4) right] is a little tired, so he is sitting on his Papa Roger’s lap and dozing. Mrs. Perkins is trying to keep a benign and hopeful expression on her face while Sam and Olivia sit at the back of the room with calm concern etched on their faces.
Judge Barclay: “Now! Mrs. Dow. Please explain your reasons for coming forward.”
Mrs. Dow: “Well, I had finally received word three months ago that the children’s father had died six months ago–and that the children had gone missing. I was frantic! You see, my husband and I had moved away a few years ago–before his sister their mother died. My husband was in the military. And then he became sick and my focus was on him and not keeping up with what our niece and nephew were doing, I’m sorry to say. If we had known that their father had died, too, we would have come forward to help them. Then when the social aide people told me recently that they were notified that the children had been found six months ago in Wakeforest and fostered by a local couple who wants to adopt them, this is my first chance to see whether the children were well cared for or not.”
Judge Barclay: “So you would have taken in the Trent children six months ago when their father died?”
Roger and Tessa exchange worried looks.
Mrs. Dow: “Yes, for a while. But it would not have been a permanent solution. You see, after my husband died—their Uncle Harry—I had to sell our home and move in with my sister. But we don’t have enough space for growing children.”
Judge Barclay: “I see. And what questions do you have, if any, Mrs. Dow?”
Mrs. Dow: “I want to hear from this couple, why they want to adopt Alice and Bobby.”
Judge Barclay: Looking over at Roger and Tessa, he asks. “Would either of you care to respond to her question?”
Tessa: “We love them! We want our home to always be their home!” Tessa blurts out, then she hugs Alice to her.
Judge Barclay: “And does that satisfy you Mrs. Dow?”
Mrs. Dow: “Partially. But the husband is very quiet. What are his feelings?” She thinks that he does not look very fatherly in his three piece suit and stiff posture—despite him having Bobby napping on his lap.
Judge: “Sir, would you like to respond?”
Roger: “Yes, I would.” Roger says crisply as he looks confidently about the room and then he locks eyes with Mrs. Dow.
Tessa: Leaning in, Tessa admonishes her husband in a hushed voice. “Be humble.” She is afraid that her businessman husband does not show well to people who do not know him. Tessa thinks that Roger tends to come off as unfeeling, but he is really a tender and caring man.
Roger: “It will be fine, Tessa. Have a little faith.” He whispers back to her. “Your Honor and Mrs. Dow. Six months ago, I became a father—at not a young age, mind you. Initially, the experience was quite daunting. You must understand, I had a well ordered life—well, except for my second wife Tessa here. She can be unpredictable at times …”
Tessa: “Hhhh!” Tessa gasps. And Sam and Olivia look at Roger wincingly, but they keep quiet as requested by the judge.
Roger: “But in a very good way.” He hastens to add. “We had both been widowed and then reconnected at our high school reunion nearly four years ago. And we were married three years ago.” Roger smiles down at Tessa and she bites her lower lip, wishing her husband were less loquacious. “Anyway, Alice and Bobby came into our lives at a time when we could help them—give them a proper home, food, clothing, and caring. But what I realized—and I believe that Tessa did as well—was that our lives had been missing something before Alice and Bobby joined our family. You see, we had been missing them. So although our adopting Alice and Bobby today is about them finding a family to love and to nurture them, Tessa and I are also gaining a family with them.” Roger smiles, pleased with himself.
Judge Barclay: “Mrs. Dow?”
Mrs. Dow: “May I also hear from Alice’s own lips what she wants for she and Bobby?” She asks the judge wincingly.
Judge Barclay: “You may ask, but Miss Trent has the choice whether to respond or not. Miss Trent?”
Alice: “I’m Miss Delaney, Judge. That is what I want to be now.” Alice has revealed her foster parents’ identity without realizing that it was to be kept secret. However, Roger and Tessa are grinning lovingly at Alice. Then she continues on, more quietly as her voice trembles. “I miss my first parents very much—I will love them always. But with Mommy Tessa and Daddy Roger, both Bobby and I have found a wonderful and loving home. And we have lots of aunts and uncles—two are with us today.” Alice gestures to her Aunt Olivia and Uncle Sam sitting in the back of the room—and they smile back at her. “And we have oodles of cousins.” Alice smiles broadly. “We haven’t had this before—so many people we can count on. We feel safe. And we feel loved. Please let us become a real family with the Delaneys.” She pleads.
Mrs. Dow: “Thank you, Alice.” She smiles at her niece. Then Mrs. Dow turns back to the judge. “Your honor, I have no objection to Alice and Bobby being adopted by the … Delaney’s, is it?”
Judge Barclay: “Very well! Mrs. Dow, we will have you sign a form waiving your custody rights. You must understand that this is irrevocable.”
Mrs. Dow: “I know, your Honor. But if I may, I would like to give Alice and Bobby and their new parents my address and phone. So that if they should ever need me in the future, they know how to contact me.”
Judge Barclay: “Is that acceptable, Mr. and Mrs. Delaney?” Since the cat is out of the bag, the judge does not obfuscate regarding the Delaney’s identity.
Roger and Tessa exchange relieved glances.
Roger: “That is acceptable, your Honor.”
Mrs. Dow: “There is just one more thing—well things, really. If I may, Your Honor?”
Judge Barclay: “Such as?” His eyebrow rises questioningly.
Mrs. Dow: “I brought some family mementos with me today to give to Alice and Bobby—so that they will have a connection to their Trent and Dow family heritage.”
Judge Barclay: “Please bring the items forward and place them on my desk. Mrs. And Mrs. Delaney, Alice, and Mrs. Perkins may also come forward.”
Everyone complies and Mrs. Dow sets a small valise upon the judge’s desk and opens it.
Mrs. Dow: “Alice, and Mr. and Mrs. Delaney, What I have here in this valise—which you may keep to transport the items to your home—are family mementos for Alice and Bobby.” She brings out each item and explains them. “First, I went through our family photographs and brought with me pictures that I thought that Alice would especially appreciate—of her parents and grandparents, and of Alice when she was little.”
Alice: Taking a picture in her hand, Alice’s eyes go wide. “Mommy!” Then she turns to Tessa. “This was my mother, before she got sick. She was very pretty, don’t you think?” Tears form in Alice’s eyes as she remembers her mother whom she lost in death.
Tessa: “Yes, Alice Dear–just like you.” Tessa soothingly strokes Alice’s shoulder length blond hair.
Mrs. Dow: “There are also letters that we had received from your parents with mentions of the children—the milestones they reached, or little things they had done. I was especially amused by this one letter, where your mother thanked us for giving you a pink puddle for your birthday–she meant poodle, but she wrote quickly and misspelled it.”
Everyone chuckes now that the tension has left the room.
Alice: “I remember that stuffed poodle.” Alice smiles fondly. “I used to sleep with it—until it got so worn that it fell apart.”
Smiling, Mrs. Dow then brings out various other family mementos and gives them to Alice and Bobby. Then Mrs. Dow hesitates only briefly, and she removes her diamond solitaire engagement ring and hands it to Alice.
Mrs. Dow: “Alice, this engagement ring belonged to my late husband Harry’s and to your late mother Alene’s mother—your grandmother Alice Dow, for whom you were named. They would want you to have the ring now.”
Alice: “Ohh! It’s beautiful! But don’t you want to keep it, Aunt Mary?” I look up at my Aunt Mary in astonishment.
Mrs. Dow: “I have kept and treasured this ring for a very long time. But now that I’m getting on in years, it’s more important for me to know that I have passed this ring on to you to have for yourself and for your children and your grandchildren.”
Alice: “Thank you, Aunt Mary.” I accept the lovely ring with gratitude.
Mrs. Dow: “You’re very welcome, Alice Dear. You’re my little Alice, all grown up.” Mrs. Mary Dow smiles with tears in her eyes as she cups Alice’s cheek. Then Alice leans in to her Aunt Mary and they embrace. “You be happy dear—Bobby, too. Mr. and Mrs. Delaney seem like lovely people.”
Alice: “They are wonderful parents, Aunt Mary. We are loved and well cared for.” And Alice’s perspective of the Delaney home being wonderful is not predicated on their material wealth, but rather on the abundant wealth of their hearts in welcoming and sheltering two lost souls in Alice and Bobby, and now becoming their parents. Alice feels very blessed.
Mrs. Dow: Then Mrs. Dow turns to Mrs. And Mrs. Delaney and hands them a slip of paper. “And here is my contact information. Please call me if there is ever a need for the children. Thank you for taking them into your home and loving them as your own children.” Mrs. Dow smiles at them cordially, and Roger and Tessa each shake her hand.
About fifteen minutes later, everyone meets in the courtroom for the formal adoption proceedings—after which, Alice and Bobby are now officially the children of Roger and Tessa Delaney. There is not a dry eye in the court room—and there are relieved hugs all around in congratulations.
Today is a special day for so many reasons—for Alice and Bobby having a new permanent family with Roger and Tessa Delaney. But also for the children retaining connections to their Trent and Dow family heritages via their Aunt Mary’s loving gifts. And Tessa and Roger’s family and their extended Delaney and Wakeforest families can now move forward with their lives now.
Because in just four months’ time, Sam and Olivia will welcome their first born child—which they are reminded of as they leave the courthouse for a family picnic at the Wakeforest County Cemetery park for Decoration Day celebrations to honor the war dead, when Sam’s and Olivia’s baby kicks in her tummy, for the very first time—with Olivia quickly bringing Sam’s hand to her tummy to feel it, too, as the baby gives another kick. Then Sam and Olivia smile lovingly at each other and they share a tender kiss.
To be continued with Chapter 35
P.S. To learn more about adoption, please visit: https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/adoption/
References for Ch. 34 by Gratiana Lovelace, May 02, 2016 (Post #905)
1) The “Love in the Great Pine Woods” story cover is a composite of two images manipped by Grati:
a) the Richard Armitage portrait is from the 2011 Project Magazine photo shoot and article interview, that was found at http://www.richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/Richard/Promos/ProjectMagJuly2011/album/slides/ProjectMag-05.html;
b) the snowy Pine forest vertical image was found on Pinterest at https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/62/fa/ff/62faff1253d55f571eb3659cc7661e73.jpg
2) Decoration Day, now known as Memorial Day in the U.S., is a day to honor our military dead. Originally, people would visit cemeteries and decorate the graves with flowers and banners; currently, Memorial Day occurs the last Monday of the month of May; for more about the observance, please visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memorial_Day;
3) Alice Trent looking up nervously is Anna Sophia Robb and was found at http://www.shattalarab.net/up/uploads/1418162081091.jpg
4) Two year old year old baby Bobby image is represented by an oil painting labeled, Per Google search: Vintage Dennis Frost Oil Painting Portrait Blue Eye Boy Illustrate in Book DAVID”was found at http://thumbs2.ebaystatic.com/d/l225/m/m9qlbLbMEEkpzbNhyVFNcTw.jpg
Previous Blog Ch. 33 Story link: