Montgomery—it was a sunny February day in 1956. Martha and her husband sat in an ugly, sterile, third-floor government office.
Outside was a blue sky, beautiful trees, and birds. Inside, it was dismal.
Martha was wringing her hands. She looked at her husband and saw him bouncing his knees.
“Would you relax?” she said to him.
“You first,” he said.
But the truth was, she was just as anxious as him. And who could blame them? Their adoption papers had been bouncing through the bureaucratic ping-pong machine for twenty-seven months now.
That’s long enough to earn a master’s degree.
When they first submitted the application they felt nothing but excitement. They filled out the forms and requested a son. The anticipation was almost too much.
What would he look like? Who would he grow to become? After ten years of marriage, Martha was ready to hold her own child. She wanted someone call her “Mama.”
In years past, she’d only ever
held children that belonged to friends or family, and this did nothing to satisfy her two empty arms.
So, they turned in their papers. They hoped, and waited, and stared at their kitchen phone every evening.
But time went on, and the phone did not ring. Six months became a year. A year became two years. Not knowing was torture.
Alabama caseworkers sometimes visited their home in Dothan, without warning. These were friendly social workers, certainly, but only in the governmental sense. The caseworkers would make notes on clipboards, then look at Martha like they were sizing her up for a butcher’s window.
Martha wondered if the phone call would ever come.
Three days ago it did. The bell sounded on Martha’s phone and she almost lost her mind.
The voice on the line said, “You can pick up your son at…