Natty - Santa Cruz, California
Entered on January 14, 2009
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: family, love, setbacks

My big sister came home from Barcelona in June with a tattoo etched into the side of her torso. A long stem of four freesias, thinly outlined black and white flowers cascading up her ribcage. One for each of her sisters, the top one just starting to bloom. That was Psy’s flower.

It wasn’t until December 8, 2008, that it was finally decided she was going to be adopted, and it won’t be until her ninth birthday in March before it’s official. But since she was a baby, before this long, excruciating process of deciding her fate, I considered her my sister. She was placed into foster-care at a week old, born to a Hawaiian schizophrenic mother and a violent father. Psylocke was her given name, but we called her Psy. Sixteen months passed and my whole family fell in love with this baby. She learned to give kisses at a few months old, or rather would slowly lean in then at the last moment open her mouth, submitting an overly passionate gum bite. I heard her first word when I handed her a bottle, and she replied in gratitude, “Dank doo.”

But sixteen months of Psy’s evolution and laughter also included social workers and court dates. I never imagined her out of my life, but the court’s decision was out of our hands and she left. I chased after the car on short, nine-year-old legs as she rode away to live with her father for four years. Then she came back, this time for only a few months. Enough time to regenerate a distant but remembered bond and fight for a just conclusion.

But once again, I bid a temporary farewell to my little sister. Because in this county, biological parents with a criminal record, drug history, and little interest in their child’s well-being get third chances. Then a week after her seventh birthday, the scrawny, brown-eyed love of my life was back and has been since. No more turmoil over where she belongs or who she should remain loyal to. The past year, I have dodged too many “you’re not my real family” bullets. The thought that maybe we were too late crossed my mind. This case has dragged on for half of my life, due to poor decisions and general screw-ups; maybe she’s bound to resent us, something her father has drilled into her innocent mind. Then there are the times she’ll suddenly run up and hug me or ask for a new name, and I reconsider: this is where she belongs.

Her teeth marks remain on our coffee table, documenting her struggle to stand up on her own. Her flower buds on my sister’s side. These are permanent reminders that she was meant to be in my family. Even if it took almost nine years to make it so.

I fear vulnerability, improbability, and a lack of structure. This explains my lifelong lightning phobia and anxiety when another court decision is made, instances I have no control over and can only wait and hope for justice. Or simply closure. But I believe every storm passes. Every wave crashes. And I can finally call her my sister: Kai, Hawaiian for “ocean.”