The tiny girls sat at the table in York County’s Family Court Wednesday, where lawyers and families and children are often in dispute. There are law enforcement officers at the doors and metal detectors guarding the place. That tells anybody things can be ugly.
But not Wednesday.
There would be no arguing around Maricar “Mari” Hudson, 17, and the 12-year-old girl next to her, Haidie. These girls had come from the Philippines to this courtroom, and there was only love.
The girls held hands during much of a court hearing. The intent was to make the Hudson family -- father and husband Robb, mother and wife Jennifer, and daughter Mari -- officially one person bigger. Wednesday was the last adoption day for 2016 in York County. Family Court Judge David Guyton, himself the parent of an adopted child, was presiding. Guyton calls it the happiest day of the year in his courtroom.
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Eight families adopted children. Haidie was first. She had been living with the Hudsons since January, as the adoption process moved along.
She nervously smiled.
The courtroom was packed with all the people it takes to pull off an adoption: bailiffs and constables, clerks of court, court reporters, lawyers, a guardian ad litem and others. Everyone wanted to see a family born.
Mari, adopted more than three years ago from the Philippines, was summoned to the witness chair. She stole the show.
“I know I have siblings, but I never met them,” Mari testified as she tried not to cry, but failed. “I always wanted to feel like I had a sister. Having Haidie here, my new sister, it changed my life. . . I found out who I am.”
She’s a sister.
The Hudsons, Robb and Jennifer, who live in Fort Mill, testified how they had talked of adoption for almost a decade. A broadcast advertisement for Philippines adoption and the needs of children there led them toward the Pacific island nation. Mari joined the family in 2012, after two years of necessary red tape and regulations, and both parents spoke of how wonderful it is to be parents.
“Better than Christmas,” Robb Hudson said of being an adoptive parent. “Christmas squared.”
The couple have become adoption ambassadors. They help two orphanages in the Philippines, work with other families, and spread the word of family love through adoption. The family even makes and sells salted caramels to give money to the adoption cause.
Jennifer Hudson testified about the couple and family making sure the girls know about their Filipino culture, and where they come from. Mari longed for companionship.
“She wanted a sister so bad,” Jennifer Hudson testified.
As her mother spoke, Mari squeezed Haidie’s arm.
Guyton heard all the testimony, received and reviewed a mountain of legal documents from both countries and from many agencies across the globe. He pronounced it all official. He said Haidie Macario Hudson, 12, is now her legal name.
Everybody took pictures and videos when it was over. Guyton gave a teddy bear to Haidie, provided by the bar association for all adopted children.
The courtroom seemed to soar with hope and love.
Mari, a sophomore at Nation Ford High School, held tight to Haidie.
“This is my new sister,” Mari said.
Haidie beamed, but did not say much. She is, in her parents words, “extremely shy.”
She was asked how she felt, to have parents who love her, and a sister who loves her too.
She said one word. With the smile, it was plenty.