Monday, 7 April 2014

Chapter 37 - Matching: A little more information


So we had both passed a weekend in a bemused cosmic, space-cadet mode. We were in possession simultaneously of far too much information and nowhere near enough. We knew we had been linked to a little boy. We suspected his name might begin with the letter "A". And that was it. What on earth were supposed to do with that? How could we process the meaning of those simple facts? Answer we couldn't. However, come two o'clock that afternoon we would know more. We would have in our possession a detailed report on this little boy, his background and his circumstances. 

All this was of scant comfort to me as I sat in the semi-darkness at 5:30 in the morning waiting for a taxi to arrive to take me to the railway station. In a perfect storm of bad planning I was due to head off that morning for an insane grand tour of the country. Sure, it had been in the diary for some months now. An insane three day road trip. But that was scant consolation now. There were more pressing matters on my mind.

This morning was a long train ride down to Exeter, meeting up with other colleagues along the way. After a busy afternoon of meetings we would be grabbing another train (or three) to travel up to Edinburgh for a two day conference. The fact that I was involved in leading a session on the second day meant that ducking out wasn't really an option. Rats! It was hardly a schedule which was conducive to settling down to dig into the finer points of a child's life. The fact that I would be several hundred miles away from any available information on him was just the icing on the cake.

The morning ride down to the West Country passed incredibly slowly. Much of it was spent, not immersed in the papers for  the suite of meetings that afternoon, but on the phone to my wife. The afternoon was even more frustrating as during  the long, intense meetings I knew that my wife would have had access to the CPR report. Around about three I felt my mobile buzz two or three times in my pocket. Clearly little bits of information were starting to dribble through to me. But of course, save making some excuses and going to sit in the gent's loo there was little scope to access it. And goodness knows what state I would be in if I did...

In the taxi back to the railway station I finally pulled my mobile out of my pocket. Sure enough there were a succession of texts which revealed increasing amounts of information about the person who would become "our little boy". 

In the run up to this point my wife and I had discussed the idea or receiving a CPR at length. Is particular we discussed how to make a dispassionate decision on whether on not this was the child for us. We had both been attracted to something that another couple had said about their approach during a training course we'd attended a few months earlier. They had covered up any photos of the prospective child in their CPR forms with a Post-It note. All the better not to be swayed by an adorable little face staring up at them with pleading eyes that said "Be my mummy and daddy... Pleeeze..." Only when they had come to a basic decision on whether to investigate that child further on the basis of the written word would they unveil the photos and gaze into the eyes of the child they had chosen (or, indeed, rejected).

That sounded like a plan.

Until I opened the next text and saw the pasty looking face of a little boy scowling up at me. Ah... The attached message explained that our best laid plans had been scuppered from the start. As my wife removed the CPR from the envelope this photo was staring up at her from the cover sheet. Too late. The photographic cat was out of the bag. And if she had to know what the little fella looked like then I was jolly well going to know too...

I flipped back to the photo and a thought popped into my head..."Well, he's no looker, is he?" It didn't help that it was a mobile phone photo of a photocopy of a scan of a pretty ropey photograph. However, that fact that this was my first thought when seeing my possible future son did make me feel more than a little uncharitable. The photo later became a topic of discussion with our, ever frank, friend Juliet who is also a foster carer. 

"Ooh, that photo is a bit grim." She blurted out, looking at the image on my wife's mobile. She looked up and quickly added with a wicked grin, "That's a good sign, of course!" "What?" "Well, they are clearly reluctant to let him go, aren't they. They've probably subconsciously chosen the most unflattering photo they have for the adoption paperwork. I can guarantee you, if he was a total nightmare then the photo would be the most angelic, cherubic photo you have ever seen! Well, it stands to reason, doesn't it?"

For now, we decided to set Juliet's cynicism and that photo to one side. We would leave the pasty looking skin, the miserable little face and the flabby, jowly scowl behind while we deliberated. The camera never lies but it has been known to bend the truth an awful lot. We would look through the documentation which we had and take a view on whether or not to proceed through a mixture of cold, hard analysis and gut feeling. As it happened, ironically, when we first met this little boy we immediately fell in love with him and left that meeting thinking, "Well, he doesn't look anything like that awful photo. He's a bit gorgeous!" Maybe Juliet was right?

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