As I reflect on my close to 10 months of working at Taller de José, I am reminded of the many ways that I have grown in tandem with my clients. There is no more appropriate example of this than with my client, Isabel. Isabel and I had a rocky start during our first in-office appointment, as I think we both struggled to understand her needs and what we could do together.
Over the course of our one and a half hour long initial appointment, I came to learn that Isabel wanted to change her daughter’s last name, her apellido, to that of her own. It was a peculiar case in which her daughter’s surname was neither her birth father’s or mother’s, but was one falsely put on her birth certificate by her birth father. Now that Isabel’s daughter is living solely with her mother, Isabel felt her daughter should rightly take her last name.
While we were able to determine the best course of action to petition for a name change in the Cook County Circuit Court, I admit that I was apprehensive to continue with Isabel because I was worried about difficulties in understanding each other and pursuing a type of case that I had never experienced before. Nevertheless, the time came for us to go to court to ask a judge for the name change.
The first day in court with Isabel immediately put my mind and heart at ease. The judge spoke kindly to my client, her daughter, and I, as I acted as an interpreter between them. It was still a very new and uncomfortable experience, but aren’t those the situations where growth is always found the most? Though it took three trips returning to court, Isabel successfully changed her daughter’s last name to her own. In celebration, she treated her family and I to a small lunch across the street from the courthouse. Whereas our client/compañerx relationship began with an emotional, complex, and rather anxious intake appointment, here Isabel wouldn’t let me say no to a lunch in celebration of her commitment and our joint effort.
Since this victory for Isabel’s family, we have shared laughs, our worries, and a whole lot of gratitude. Isabel allowed me to grow in my Spanish comprehension and in breaking down any thin wall that may exist between compañerx and client. We had separate journeys when we met each other for the first time, and we continue to have separate journeys. Yet for these few months working together, our paths were parallel, and I truly felt like we walked together in growth and gratitude.