The shop’s fresh ground coffee mingles in the air with the sound of an espresso machine whirring. After I order coffee, Paige and I pick out a raspberry croissant from behind the glass cabinet, and then turn around to find a seat.
“Lynn!” calls a familiar singsong lilt. I search the crowded room for Noellynn and see her sitting in the corner. Textbooks are spread over the table and she sips coffee from a mug. “Come sit with me,” she calls, shoving her books to the side.
When I am seated with Paige in a high chair next to me, Noellynn asks, “How are things going with Payton?” Noellynn was adopted through foster care at the age of 12 with her two younger siblings. She often jokes that she was the buy two, get one free kid.
“I don’t know,” I sigh. Ever since the visits with Ruth and David started, my stress level has doubled and my shoulders carry a permanent heaviness. “It’s been really hard. I just don’t know if I can do it.” I look down at the table and run pick off a piece of the croissant. Blinking away tears, I look up. “Will things ever get better?”
Both Charise and the girls’ court-appointed lawyer have emphasized how important it is for the girls to be raised together. I want to do the right thing but I’m not sure that is it, for our family or Payton. “How important do you think it is for siblings to stay together?” I ask Noellynn.
“Very important. They’re the only familiar thing and it’s comforting to have them with you in an unfamiliar place.
“One of the hardest things about being in foster care is feeling left out, especially if the parents have their own kids. You call your foster parents by their first names but their own kids call them mom and dad. It makes you feel alone and isolated, like you really aren’t part of the family. Having a brother or sister helps with that.”
“I never thought of that,” I admit.
I start calling myself Mama Lynn that very day, and Andrew begins referring to himself as Daddy Andrew. Paige, her speech still emerging and adoring her older sister, begins calling us that as well.