Christmas in Prison

Christmas in Prison

by Crane-Station for Frog Gravy

card from prison commissary

Christmas card from prison commissary that I sent to my family for Christmas, 2008.

Blue Jay, Prison art

Partially completed Blue Jay, prison art. I was not able to complete this drawing, because of the poor quality of the made-in-Indonesia colored pencils from prison commissary. The pencils broke, and the colors were not what they were labeled to be. It would not have mattered anyway; the prison stamped the drawing as you can see, to indicate that this was “Inmate mail.”

KCIW PeWee Valley, Christmas, 2008

While families across the country gather to exchange gifts, attend services, and enjoy the lights, food and decorations, we are gathered and silent, in the day room of Ridgeview Dormitory, waiting for our names to be called so that we can receive our Christmas gifts.

The gift is a Christmas card, handed to us each personally by the Ridgeview House Mother, Mary. Everyone receives the same card. For many, this is the only Christmas gift they will receive. We are thankful for this card.

Some women who trick write, will receive financial gifts from sugar daddies.

Christmas in prison is Christmas ruined because the pain of family separation is magnified. Women miss their grandchildren’s first Christmas, or their parent’s last Christmas, as was the case with my friend Sarah, whose father committed suicide two days after Christmas.

We miss our families. But what do we miss, exactly? We miss the innocence and awe of our childhood Christmases, I think. We chase and chase this rose-colored-glasses version of happier times, until we stop. Because it will never be that way again.

Many choose to continue the fantasy of family reunion. Of childhood excitement. Of joy. Of sleds and snow and kitchen baking smells, and opening presents early on Christmas Eve. We chase and chase the fantasy until we are too tired to chase it anymore and we must accept that we are unwanted. We must accept that it is possible for family love to stop. Even if we cannot understand, we must accept it.

Others widen the chasm from the outset and extend the geography and psychological valleys of separation because not to do so is too painful. These are the realistic women, I think. They are able to accept the end of love and move on to something else.

How does one accept the unacceptable? “You cannot live in here and out there at the same time,” other inmates tell me. “Do the time and do not let the time do you.” The women who tell me these things are wise women, I think. They are wise because they have let go of something I cannot turn loose of: regret.

When I was a child I loved snow globes. I broke one once, but I refused to believe that it was broken. I squeezed my eyes shut tight and prayed for it to magically come back. Each time I opened my eyes, the plastic globe remained broken on the floor, the liquid spreading. That is what Christmas is like in prison. No matter what you do, no matter how much you pray, no matter what you do not do, your life is still in shards. One time in my adult life I was within a mile of my childhood home. I kept on driving. Because to stop would have broken the fantasy that you can go home again and things will be the same.

When my name is called, I thank Mary for the card. But I cannot stop longing for my snow globe.

7 Responses to Christmas in Prison

  1. fauxmccoy says:

    poignant, beautifully moving and tragic. i am so sorry you had to experience this, rachel, but i’m also grateful that you (and colin) have the ability to relate such stories with clarity. this is the stuff that society needs to know before deliberating to take away anyone’s liberty.

  2. Two sides to a story says:

    My achy, breaky heart. Thanks for the window into your pain – it makes us all grow.

  3. Rachael says:

    I can’t read this without primal pain.

    • stan says:

      I think often about your agonizingly painful period of incarceration.
      I think about the wonderful person whose life was stolen from her.
      I think about those whose moral corruption damned you to a living hell.
      I think about your family and the endless pain they felt for you.
      But mostly I think about you: the kind, sweet, loving person I have come to know.
      And then I become incensed.
      Why must it always be regardless of the civilization or century that the good suffer because of the wicked?
      Is this the true will of the universe?
      Or, is the nature of man such that his ultimate legacy to his fellow human being will be:
      I came; I hurt; I destroyed!
      I hold you my dear friend in my arms, brush a wisp of hair away from your eyes, look deeply into your spirit, and softly whisper without reservation or qualification:
      I love you.


      • Awww, Stan, this is me, Crane-Station replying on Fred’s screen. Thank you so much. There are some things they want so much to take away but they can’t. Love is one of those things they just can’t have. And that is what matters the most. Thank you so much for your kind comment. We will be out for a bit on an errand but will be back a bit later on, thanks again!

        • stan says:

          Thanks for the gender tip.
          I’ve been having gender identification problems all day.
          Why hell, an attractive woman cut me off on the 405 and I audibly announced, “What an unmitigated bastard!”
          It’s most comforting to know that you are still a she and not a he.
          I mean, hey, whatever floats your boat and all of that, but…
          I have learned to tolerate you just the perfect way you are

  4. colin black says:

    If you have no loved ones to miss or even worse you may have .

    But you are so selfish an callous to care for there pain.
    Then Prison ,Jail. Loss of Liberty Is no big deal.

    Lets face it if ones so self centred an engulfed with pain an resentment .To find ones self In this state of mind then one is either a sociopath or sold ones soul to the Devil .

    Through the medium of addiction be it drugs drink or other when one is over whelmed with addiction..
    Nothing else matters except that next fix or drink or pipe or all of the above..

    Family don’t matter friends don’t matter why would they .
    You don’t even care about your self so why would your emotions switch on for others?

    So given addiction is a self imposed Prison its walls are with in you an are blocking your exit wherever you may be.

    Man made prisons are nothing compared to the confeinment we can an do sentence ourselves to serve.

    An no one but our own desire our own courage to face down the demons .
    The key Is in us all to change once you leave you may be free an then relapse an re enter the Jail .

    You must not despair an consider all lost as that’s a cowards stance an addicts stance
    An excuse to use.

    No you’ve escaped once so you can do it again an again if nessesery an one day hopefully you get bored of self inflicted confeinment .

    An step out in to the sun for ever.

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