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A court of beginnings

Photo of Pike County Courthouse by the author

Several excellent writing professors have told me throughout my life that you start by starting. Introductions, caveats and excuses delay your goal and bore or confuse the reader. Don’t tell people what you’re going to do. Do it.

But they also advised me always to write with my audience in mind. This is a blog, and you’re still reading, which suggests you like to read blogs, or at least my blog. So I’m assuming you’re prepared for and maybe even expecting some opinions. Here they are, by way, as they say, of introduction.

I can be a cynical, pessimistic bastard.

I can’t help it, and I really don’t want to help it. The world is a nasty, ugly place where terrible things happen to innocent people all the time. I’m convinced, through arrogance or narcissism or rationalization, that my gloomy outlook keeps me well-prepared for those dismal days we all inevitably encounter, and insulates me from the worst disappointments. Optimism sounds in my ears like a synonym for naivety.

Told you: I’m a bastard. But today I’m going to break character for a few hundred words.

I don’t often write about my work. I never have. I think it’s a good rule to stay away from what you’re currently doing, especially in the world of the law, where much of it is privileged and confidential.

It’s unprofessional to complain about your job in any detail, and as a cynical, pessimistic bastard I find joyous reports about one’s work untrustworthy at best. I have stories from previous jobs that would make your eyeballs burst from your face. But even if I was unscrupulous about what I was willing to share, to the extent that I wrote here about everything, what stories would I have left to tell at parties?

So there it is. That’s the introduction my writing advisors always advised against. But I think I did okay. I needed all that to make it clear to you why the rest of this little essay is an exception for me.

I don’t have to violate any privilege or confidentiality to say a typical Common Pleas court sees a lot of depressing stuff: divorce, custody, drug addiction, acrimonious estate distributions, and worse. Yes, our judges also perform marriages, but those aren’t really cases, so the law clerks never have occasion to attend.

From where I am sitting, it is often a court of dismantling, of endings.

Today, though, I was present for the first time at an adoption proceeding. It was emotional for the family. And all of the Court’s personnel were doing something we rarely do during court proceedings: we were smiling.

While I think family is most clearly defined by something ineffable in our hearts, legal recognition gives that definition life in the outside world.

And that can be just as important, especially when it comes to the right to protect, provide benefits to or make healthcare decisions for your family when they are unable to do those things for themselves.

It’s hard to be a cynical, pessimistic bastard while you watch a group of children and adults get their first photograph taken as a legally recognized family. Today, even if only for thirty minutes, ours was a court not of dismantling, but a court of building, and beginnings.

What a beautiful thing.