Presents, Presence and the Holidays in Prison 

It’s almost March and this one slipped away from me.  So while the holiday’s feel like a LONG time ago, I recently pulled out a gift I was sent (I’m counting all the Christmas cards as gifts too) and felt it proper to still share how my Christmas went.

An inmate had jokingly asked a few of us if we received anything for Christmas.  I did!  It was one of the most endearing gifts I’ve ever received.  My mother put together a photo book of pictures from the day I was born all the way through 2007.  More than half of the photos in there are ones I had never seen – including many of my father and I when I was a newborn.

Many friends wrote and wanted to know how Christmas was here.  Of course, it wasn’t much like Christmas is outside of prison.  It was very much like any other day, minus a plastic Christmas tree and a holiday meal at the chow hall.  Everyone here would have preferred to be with the people we love but there’s a saying that comes to mind: “misery loves company.”  In that regard, we didn’t spend the entire day in a depressed state.  Sure, all of us would have rather been somewhere else, but we were here.  The rec schedule was modified (ie: cut short) because staff wanted to be home with their families, and can you really blame them?  A few people spent the night fuming that they would have preferred to have been in the gym.  Yes, that would have been wonderful, a Christmas miracle.  However, it wasn’t our reality.

So what did anyone gain by not being present, by complaining about how things could have or should have been?  We were locked inside a federal prison in South Dakota amidst a global pandemic.  You can only let that loom over you so long because it’s your reality, your present life.

The real gift is knowing I won’t be spending the rest of my Christmas’s like this.  I celebrated the Holidays with people who have spent over 20 Christmas Days in prison or jail.  When you’re with guys who have gone through that, how could anyone in their right (stoic) mind be upset.  We had food, shelter and even a touch of camaraderie.

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