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An Awkward Letter

by Channie Greenberg

Ms. Mandy Liftok, Coordinator
Adoption Resource Center
Family Service of Berkshire County
Handover, Maryland

Dear Ms. Liftok:

We are writing in response to your communication of November 8th, which requested a letter of reference for Raleigh Watts and Sarge Laurence. This response is so paltry as to feel awkward.

We moved into the Village Cottages in Berkshire at approximately the same time as did Raleigh. Shortly thereafter we became friends. We met Sarge when he started dating Raleigh. “Aunt” Raleigh, and “Uncle” Sarge, as our three and a half-year old daughter, Sally, and our twenty month-old son, Marvin, refer to them, are among the most striking adults in our children’s and our lives.

Sarge has cured our children’s sibling jealousies with heavy dollops of marshmallow fluff, transforming robots, and stray cats. He has lulled our sleepy little ones to rest with computer-generated voices. He has even wisely surmised and responded to our preschooler’s need for attention during a neighborhood party. Specifically, Sarge tossed around our toddler when it was time to play nerf football.

Raleigh, for her part, has spent countless hours pushing Sally on park swings and playing imaginary games with her. As a result, our family is currently hostage to an invisible, twelve foot-long Komodo dragon. At least, that beast seems to have done away with the stray cats, which Sarge had introduced to our home.

What’s more, Raleigh made Marvin feel he had a valuable big sister by habitually helping Marvin with his coat first and by ordinarily honoring our little boy’s requests for cups of water.

Raleigh has taught both of our children respect for and curiosity about animals. The upshot of that “kindness” is that Marvin incessantly contends that his entire hibernaculum of imaginary hedgehogs was sucked up by Sally’s pretend reptile.

Meanwhile, Marvin’s constant need to explore just one more closet or drawer has been cheerfully encouraged and monitored by both Raleigh and Sarge. They allow our baby to tunnel through — I mean churn — their compost pile and to find missing socks behind their dryer.

Further, Sally had such a carefree time with Raleigh and Sarge during the time my husband and I were preoccupied with Marvin’s birth that Sally asked to stay the night with them. We said yes; no one else is willing to paint her toenails red and to leave her — I mean, hide her — in strawberry patches.

In addition, during a recently shared Fourth of July picnic, at least until the oatmeal pancakes were distributed, both Aunt Raleigh and Uncle Sarge played Hide the Beer Can with our little people. At the sight of our fried mush, however, the young couple found a need to feed the park’s swans. Marvin, who toddled after them, was successfully resuscitated by a paramedic.

Not only have Raleigh and Sarge responded to our children’s evolving physical and emotional needs, but they have finessed their work schedules, as well, to participate in our sons’ and daughter’s birthday parties.

Last month, Raleigh took Sally camel riding and Sarge, concerned that Marvin might feel left out, borrowed a toddler pack and took our little guy to a minor league game. Our child was returned to us tired, smeared with mustard and ketchup, and bearing a full diaper.

Although Raleigh’s authentic concern for the well-being of people and animals and Sarge’s seemingly unending reservoir of energy for family and community speak to values we possess, it is that twosome’s behavior with children that most resonates with us.

Raleigh and Sarge share our regard for the integrity of young people. Raleigh and Sarge have never hesitated to supplement the care of our children whether it is: family traditions around shoelace color, words used to describe potty maneuvers, or questions about how to proceed when an invisible friend is arrested for eating actual, municipal tulips.

Respectively, Sally now whips her hair with neon laces, Marvin knows more anatomically correct names for private parts than does the paramedic with whom we’re on a first-name basis, and Sarge possesses a dime-store vase in which to store any and all clipped posies.

Likewise, concerning my husband and my observations of Raleigh and Sarge with their nephews and niece, we find them to be predictably creative and caring. When Raleigh’s brother’s youngest daughter’s best friend’s older sister’s boyfriend got stopped by the cops for creative driving, Sarge was quick to offer the officer a choice of a steak dinner at a local eatery or a fifty-dollar bill.

Similarly, Raleigh didn’t really push the elderly gentleman who was trying to buy the deeply discounted cap that Raleigh’s second cousin wanted to purchase, but just shoved him a little. A YouTube video documents the entire event.

In short, we believe Raleigh and Sarge will be excellent parents. They yearn, to the best of our ability to observe, to share with children their caring and their insights, their Anglo-Saxon birthright, and their everyday joy in living, especially as punctuated with shopping sprees at Kids’ Palace.

It is not Raleigh’s volunteer work at the State zoo, Sarge’s unacknowledged hours with a high-school youth group, or their shared involvement in programs to better upper bracket after-school care that makes them such exemplars. Nor is it their habit of charity, notably as concerns secondhand boats, or their mindfulness in the course of interacting with other adults, especially those who can be conned — I mean, advised — to become investors, that makes them such selfless persons. Rather, Raleigh and Sarge are great parents because they embrace human worth.

As a couple, they seem to have also found a harmony between individual needs and marital happiness. On the one hand, Raleigh might gift herself with horseback riding sessions and Sarge might revel at guitar camp.

On the other, they are careful to schedule daily contact, weekly couple time, and regular breaks from everyone else to sustain their relationship. They have time shares in at least five locales, including one on a remote Pacific island.

Their harmony, as well, grows from their respective, distinct interests and hobbies. Raleigh, for example, has learned new traditions surrounding National Groundhog Day, and Sarge has enrolled, with one of their pumas, in a large cat obedience course. It is rare that adults practice such tolerance and understanding.

Raleigh and Sarge, at the very least, are respectful and, at most, sincerely adoring. Raleigh paid for extra frosting roses for Sarge’s most recent birthday cake. Sarge shot only clay pigeons, not real ones, as a favor to Raleigh for their most recent anniversary.

As their close friends, we have witnessed Raleigh and Sarge accommodate vegetarians, women whose hats are too large for conventional autos, federal bankers, and small children unafraid of puking on designer fashions.

More importantly, we have seen this pair provide limitless empathy to ill or confused family members and explicit constraints to hurtful ones. Sarge traveled daily, for an entire fortnight, to Delaware to sing to his grandmother, who lay in a coma. What’s more, he used his tapes of that example of goodness in only three local political campaigns.

For her part, Raleigh spent many nights listening to the romantic and financial woes of her teenage nephews. Local media insist that she, not the kids’ mother, was responsible for certain girls suddenly being able to afford out-of-state college tuitions.

Yet, both Raleigh and Sarge are able to limit their expenditure of resources with regard to intergenerational celebrations. No extended family member of theirs received more than a fruitcake or a hand-crocheted toilet paper holder for gifts this year.

Not a single blood relative of theirs was treated to a dinner out or to a large cat obedience class. Rather, Raleigh served oatmeal pancakes, baked specially by me for family celebrations, and Sarge offered lessons with her husband’s woodworking kit to relatives who are allergic to dried fruit.

We do not know either Raleigh or Sarge on a professional basis and as such cannot comment on interactions of that nature. As for their overall fitness in parenting, however, let it suffice to say that we think so highly of Raleigh Watts and of Sarge Laurence that we named them our children’s guardians.

Besides, they give us frequent passes to their polo club, promise not to fire my husband for another six months, and have made mention that they will remove their ocelot litter from our salon.

If you need any more information, please do not hesitate to contact us. We hope our communication is of some assistance and regret that it is so awkward for us to sufficiently praise our friends.


Katherine and Albert Ferridink

Copyright © 2012 by Channie Greenberg

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