Two days before Christmas, before I showed up to my family’s holiday dinner without the invisible moniker of the last single daughter, two days before we announced our engagement, I witnessed my fiancé’s arrest. In those two days, I learned my fiancé wasn’t coming home anytime soon. Yet, Christmas came in spite of it. Though I didn’t know it at the time, I was a prisoner’s wife walking. Unlike the wrapped holiday gifts under my tree, no amount of Scotch tape would hold together the pieces of my life. Tears flowed, until finally it was a silent night.
The timing of my now husband’s arrest and subsequent incarceration changed the innocence of the holiday season. The glee of the season juxtaposed with my feelings of lost was a source of contention. In those two days, I lost who I thought I was as I promised never to be a woman with a man in prison. I constantly relived the events that landed my husband on the island of misfit boys, repeatedly punishing him for stealing Christmas then and twelve years to follow. His guilt, palpable. His apologies, sincere. Yet, no matter our state of mind the other 356 days, two days before Christmas was the most difficult time of the year.
Several years ago, two days before Christmas, he called. I’d prepared another fifteen minutes from hell. I intended to make him as miserable as I. I pressed five to receive the call. Before I said hello and with all the sarcasm I could muster, I shouted three little words, “Happy Arrest Day!” He laughed and replied with three words of his own, “Another year down.” In that moment, I realized I was the one robbing us of the joy of what two days before Christmas really meant. Time was moving. I needed his three words to appreciate the true meaning of a commitment. Our efforts were not in vain, but my personal perceptions threatened us. So busy forcing my wifehood into a box set of acceptable, I didn’t recognize my actions told my husband he was unacceptable. When I stopped judging our lives and gave myself the freedom to love outside of my conformity, it was indeed a happy arrest day.
The period from November to January is naturally difficult. Heaviness hangs in the halls of the prison this time of year. It’s the season of family. Our family is miles apart. We experience a measure of melancholy. In spite of this, we look forward to two days before Christmas with all the fa-la-la the rest of the world looks upon Christmas Day. We are another year closer to finally making it to that holiday dinner. Two days before Christmas, now eight years into this sentence, we celebrate our official “new year” as a reminder of how far we have come and how much we have grown. It’s a celebration that adds joy to our world and guarantees the pain of it all is not re-gifted year after year, two days before Christmas.
Are the holidays difficult for you? If so, why? Have you learned to accept your reality?