return to sender

when leanne was pregnant with our second child,
before the lumps on her neck and everywhere else and
before the dirty mri and before
before the winter with too much cold
leanne went out and bought one thing
for the baby, a pair of these:


she put them in the closet or down in the basement
with all of lydia’s old baby clothes, just waiting
for life to happen.

but a different kind of life happened,
and they took the baby out.

some people don’t have the energy
to get out of bed during chemo,
but somehow leanne had the ability
to find them and put them in a box
and send them to our friend out in baltimore
who had just given birth to a daughter of her own,
and along with it, she slipped in a card that said:

“every girl needs a pair of red boots”.

and that was that.


a few days ago there was a box on the porch.
it was from leanne’s friend in baltimore.
inside were the boots and a card that read:

“i think you said that every girl needed a pair of red boots”


two weeks ago the phone rang.
i was away teaching.  it was rena’s birthmom.
she said she was homeless
and could we give her some money,
could she stay at our house?

leanne called the agency
and the owner picked up tina.

the owner said she spent the two hours driving
her to wherever she needed to go to remind her of a few things.

tina, listen to me and listen to me good, she said,
daniel and leanne adopted rena……not you.

still, it was hard for me to not open our door to her.
after all, she had given us her baby.
and to complicate things more, we still hadn’t had our court date.
technically, rena still wasn’t ours.

tomorrow is the court date.

we got a call tonight that tina won’t go.
she doesn’t want the baby back,
she just doesn’t want to get arrested.

and so we wait
or we ask people in her family to turn her in
or we do nothing
or we sit on the purple couch
and slip the red boots on rena’s feet.

first one,
then the other.


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27 responses to “return to sender

  1. It would be hard to not open the door, but it seems like it would be unnerving to see her there in your house. Unnerving and frightening. Sounds like she’s having a rough time of it.

    Best of luck to you and your big day tomorrow.

  2. Now I want a pair of red boots!

    Tina’s story is sad, but also makes me think that she knows she did a good thing by picking the perfect family for her baby. So perfect that she sort of wants to be adopted, too.

    Good luck today.

  3. Meghan

    I hope your court date goes smoothly and I hope that Tina finds her way in this world.

  4. Jenny

    Good luck in court today. I love what dancing lemur said, that Tina picked the perfect family for her baby — so much so that she is hoping she can be adopted by you as well. I will pray that Tina can get all the help she needs.

    And, those boots are adorable!

  5. Erin

    Does the fact that she won’t go to the court date mean that you guys may have complications with the adoption? I wasn’t sure if that’s what you were saying between the lines.
    Best of luck to you today.

    • yeah, so, if she doesn’t go to court,
      which it’s looking like she won’t,
      there is no “good luck dan and leanne
      with your court date.”

      it wasn’t our court date,
      it was hers.

      she needs to relinquish her rights.
      or not.

      so now, if she doesn’t show,
      we wait maybe a year
      for abandonment
      to become official.

      for me, it’s not a big deal.
      just another thing to wait for.

      for leanne, though, it’s more.

      • Amy

        I’m confused about her not wanting to be arrested….that only happens if she doesn’t show up to a court date, right?

        In any case, the girl has hopefully reconfirmed to herself she’s not mother material at this time in her life.

        The Universe knows whose baby Rena is. It’ll keep her right where she belongs.

      • nah –
        she doesn’t have to go to court to relinquish her rights. the police want her for violating parole. so if she shows up for an adoption hearing (or for any other reason) they’ll lock her up.

        and the lame judge won’t all her to relinquish on paper. so not nice.

  6. Good luck to you. I hope that Tina shows up and that Rena will finally “belong” to the place I’m sure she already belongs. Have faith and patience that it will all work out.

  7. Allan Fromberg

    Just another opportunity to exercise faith…..they’ll make the right decision. You gotta believe.

  8. Stephanie

    Oh man, that’s hard. I can’t imagine the thought of having to wait for your daughter to legally be your daughter.
    Big hugs to Leanne- and to you. Hopefully Tina will do the right thing.

  9. Uh, you guys. I’m sorry, for Tina and for you. It’s not the way it’s supposed to go, is it.

  10. lrklalala

    Prayers and wishes are with you. So much waiting. May the blessings just keep unfolding. Love, ease, well being, for all of you.

  11. I can only imagine what Leanne’s feeling–how horrible for all of you.

    You would think, in a common sense world, that the fact that the birth mother isn’t willing to show up because she’s wanted for a parole violation would be enough for the judge.

    Of course, this isn’t necessarily a common sense world. Arghhh.

  12. Nancie

    So – we are all waiting with baited breath (don’t know what that means). Did she or didn’t she?
    I hope she did, but I doubt it. She doesn’t know anything about responsibility yet. Nor may she ever know.

    • no, she didn’t.
      she didn’t show.
      last night she called us.
      we didn’t answer.
      she left a message saying that she was sorry,
      that she would turn herself in
      and sign all the papers
      and try and do what was best for rena.

      it comes down to this:
      coming up with an adoption plan for her baby
      was not indicative of a shift in tina,
      at least not yet,
      but rather a flash of brilliance and maturity.

  13. Jean

    Sorry to hear about the mess with the court. I hope it all is settled quickly.

  14. I hope the flash of brilliance and maturity sparked something more in Tina that will ignite sooner rather than later.

    I’m sorry she didn’t show.

  15. sarah g

    Poor Tina. She knew not who to reach out to, so she reached out to you. For help. My prayers are with her, this is a hard time to be homeless.

    I can understand she doesnt want to be arrested and it is sad that for her to do the right thing, to relinquish; which is what even she wants, she must get in trouble.

    I’m glad that Rena has you, and I”m glad that Tina has your prayers. She needs them. Also, how much gratitude I have to God that Rena is with you and not on the streets with her mother; homeless, cold, abandoned and wanted.

    Prayers to all of you. Especially to the very kind heart of your beautiful wife, who already had lost so much and is being blessed with so much more.

  16. Julia

    Three cheers for red boots, and especially for two lovely little feet to slip into them! Looking forward to your announcement that she is legally bound to you, as we already know that she is forever bound to your hearts!

    Julia in Seattle

  17. what an epic tale

    the waiting must be difficult, but I’m sure having your family together now soothes the soul a bit

    I hope Tina does do what’s best for Rena and that everything settles down for you guys.

    all the best


  18. reita

    have you ever read the books by Brian Weiss? Many Lives, Many Masters…there is a premise in this book that babies…either miscarried or otherwise…find their parents no matter what, even if it is a child born later or a child adopted…the soul finds those parents…I am very comforted by this. Rena found you all. Much love.

  19. Leslie

    What’s needed here is red boots for the whole family.
    Adoption boots.

  20. Susan

    What a hard spot to be in! This would be a prime occasion for that “Easy” button to actually work. You guys deserve to have something happen a little easier.

    How is Rena? And Lydia? Thinking of you and sending lots of good wishes your way!

  21. Sondra

    I totally understand what you are going through and know what that waiting feeling produces in one’s soul.
    After going through two adoptions, that final day in court, getting ready for it, not sure if someone will walk in at the last second and say they changed their minds………Well, it’s torture.
    However, let me share with you what we went through in our day in court with each child.

    With our son, we were taken to the private quarters of the judge which frightened us as we were told the hearing would be held in the court room and we had been called to the court 2 months before we were told the adoption would be finalized.

    Needless to say it was the longest walk in my life from the court room to his office.

    In the mean time, I quietly whispered to our nearly 10 month old son that he was a good boy, a wonderful boy and a blessing. That we picked him because he was special and we wanted him to be our son forever and ever.

    Trying to prepare myself for what may or may not happen in the judges chamber (as if one can prepare for something like this) I was trembling and kept telling myself to take a breath, breathe and smile, breathe and smile.

    Our son smiled at is and patted my shoulder like he understood my state of mind.

    We sat down, waited for judge, wheew, seemed like hours. Then he walked in and for some reason our son jumped from my lap, started pulling things off his desk, tried to climb on top of the desk and running around squeeling

    I was terrifed that the judge would find this behavior unacceptable.

    That blessed man sat down, swept our son up onto his lap and whispered to him, “you know young man, you are a beautiful gift to your parents and I understand why your acting up.” ” You’ve never been here before, you’re acting like a normal 10 month year old child and sense the fear of your parents.” “This is one of the wonderful rewards I get as a judge.” “You see, I’m an adopted child as well.” He then looked at us, gave our son a sucker and said “Congratulations Mom and Dad, your son is yours legally today.” “I’ll happily sign these papers.” I was speechless but so relieved and happy.
    Seven years later as we approached yet another judge for our daughter, the judge payed no attention to us, but said to our 7 year old son, “Well young man, how do you like this little sister?” Our son answered “Well, I helped pick her out.” The judge smiled and said “would you like to keep her?” Our son put his hands on his hips, stood up tall, took a step closer to his baby sister and said “Well, I’d like to see you try to take her away from me!!” We all took a large breath, the judge started to laugh and said, “Well young man, that’s exactally what I wanted to hear.”

    Now I realize this may or may not bring a smile to you at this time of waiting but truly believe that your little angel is in the right place with the right people at the perfect time. Waiting to hear all has gone well. Hugs and Blessings to you all.

  22. Dear Dan and Lea,

    This is another one of those moments I have to write to thank you for sharing your story with all of us, and for making a place for us to share our stories with one another.

    I’ve become, over the last 2 years a “mother of the heart” to the teenaged daughters of my former partner. There is not any legal bond at all between these two young women and me, but our hearts have come to recognize each other.

    There have been times that I have been afraid of “losing them” when things between me and their dad have been rough. I have been scared about loosing my newfound sense of self as a “mom.” There have been times when I have felt self conscious about trying to explain to other people about how I can both be “single, never married, no kids” and a mom to two daughters who don’t live with me and with whom I have no legal bond.

    But when I see them do the things they love to do, when I see them learning to believe in themselves, when I see their souls shine, when I see them growing in the way they handle life’s gifts and burdens, I cannot imagine being more proud and in awe than if I had given birth to them.

    Thanks, all of you, who remind me that Family doesn’t come in a box. It’s about what’s in our hearts and souls, not about what’s on paper.

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