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A Funny Thing Happened on My Way to the .. Homestudy

A Humorous Tale of Home Inspection for Our Adoption

By Peggy Knudson

I don't have my kids yet, but in ten years I will tell them this TRUE story; it happened just last week.

This is going on my fourth month of homestudy activities; we have a VERY thorough social worker who is very busy with us and many other couples. I like her, but after six hours of interviews, she knows me better than many of  my acquaintances, and of course everything seems to take so LONG when you are waiting.

So last week, after not hearing from her for weeks about WHEN my home visit would be, I was in the throes of my organization's largest conference of the year: two cities; 30 student participants from around the world; 35 senior women speakers; 10,000 details, all organized by my small, hard-working staff under my direction. At the end, you feel like you have run a marathon and you can't think straight. I check my voice mail; there's a message from my social worker saying she was planning to come by in a day, but since I was out of the office we might have to postpone for a month.

ARRGH! NO MORE WAITING PLEASE! I called and left a message saying she could certainly come by the next day (two conference attendees had stayed with me on and off for almost two weeks. Papers, clothes and dishes -- mostly mine -- were everywhere, but hey, nothing a little straightening up couldn't fix, right?).

We had our last conference event that evening. The next day at work, the social worker and I FINALLY hooked up live on the telephone, and both of us agreed to an appointment in two hours (I work 45 minutes from my home). OK, I think, as I climb into my $700 car. Time to fly like the wind.

My last tag-along from the conference was a lovely 23-year old Mongolian graduate student called Oyuna who, after many days of living with us, was used to the chaos and sudden changes of plans. I pulled her from our extra desk at work, where she was checking her email, swept her into the car and she listened, bemused, to my battle plans as I ran yellow lights, heading for  my house in the city: "Now you make the beds, I'll sort out that gigantic pile of clean and dirty clothes swept together in the corner." She has wonderful English but has never been to the U.S. before, and she tends to hesitate before words: "Homestudy, what is that? They come to your (SPACE) house? What are they (SPACE) looking for?"

In reality, she was happy to help and grateful to give back after I had raised funds for her plane ticket to and from the conference, all the way from Ulaanbataar. Plus it was interesting, this American thing called a (SPACE) homestudy.

We had exactly 59 minutes. Oyuna dusted, made beds, cleaned the kitchen. I sorted papers, dirty and clean clothes; emptied overflowing waste baskets; swept aside dirty dishes in record time. Three dead plants -- not a good sign of my nurturing capabilities -- were carried outside. I pleaded by phone with my housemate boyfriend Mark (who HAD to be there, the social worker informed me) to leave work and a board meeting to dash home. He changed the time of his presentation to the entire board of trustees (we don't need job security, right?) so he could be there. As the social worker walked in the door, I was picking up a large piece of broken glass from the floor (How did THAT get there!!? Must have spilled out of the recycling crate!) and Oyuna was on her hands and knees, sorting shoes in what passes for a closet in our tiny row house, and I thought "Oh my God, the social worker will think I am exploiting an Asian!" Did it look like I was the evil stepmother in Cinderella?

The house was spotless. Well, cleared out. 59 minutes.

Then Mark walked in the door wearing a tie; this only happens three times a year, during his board meetings.

And we had a lovely chat at our kitchen table, the three of us, while Oyuna sat like a well-behaved daughter close by, pretending to read "Things to do in Washington D.C." and listening with all her might to this interesting thing, this American homestudy.

The social worker asked for hot coffee. Mark, trying to be helpful and knowing that I probably hadn't had time to buy coffee beans in a month, says "There's some cold coffee in the fridge." Hot would be better, she politely says. Cream and sugar please. I open the freezer door and -- lo and behold -- there ARE coffee beans, there IS milk and it is not sour, the sugar is, OK, kind of clumpy but I turn my back and break it up with a fork. Since Mark broke the coffee machine last winter we have been using the handmade "boil-water-then-drip-through-a cone" method, like the students did when I lived in Germany, and all the tools were miraculously in their places -- the cone, the paper filters-- probably because I haven't used them for weeks. The result is a perfect cup of coffee.

She didn't look into any drawers. I showed her my one good, orderly closet. She liked the rennovations Mark's brother had done on the first floor (we really do have a funky house -- our first floor is gorgeous) and said we should try to add on instead of moving to a larger house when the kids were bigger. She liked the art. I held my breath when she went upstairs to use the bathroom and stayed for a few minutes -- please God don't let her look underneath the beds -- then she was back again.

And I was pronounced fit for two children, which is what I have wanted all along. Two hours after the visit began, she left, and Oyuna and I headed back to work in the car. Which, by the way, looked as though a bomb had gone off inside, as it had been the major transport vehicle for the conference. Papers, panty hose, name tags, jumper cables, coffee cups, MacDonald's wrappers were everywhere. I didn't care.

"Good thing they didn't ask to see your (SPACE) car," said Oyuna, smiling. Stay tuned...

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