December 26, 2013

Since Thanksgiving, I've been trying to live like a perfectly wrapped gift. Smiling, laughing, trying to seem "in the spirit" of the holidays... but I've hidden behind the fancy ribbon and shiny paper. I've tucked away my tears inside my perfectly wrapped gift box.

Today I've been unwrapped.

No more artificial smiles and empty laughter. I'm out of the box. I'm unwrapped.

Let me cry now. Let me feel now. Let me grasp the gristly heartache that comes with having a child in prison during the holidays.

I'm unwrapped. It happened last night.

My older son, imprisoned since March 28th, sent a beautiful letter to my family. So last night, after the presents and the feasts, after the stockings and the caroling, after the holiday ho ho hos and hugs all around, we passed around his letter. It was addressed to each of us individually, each of us named in his blue pen scrawl. His heartfelt words of jolly good cheer and best wishes for a healthy, happy new year leapt off the page like a sleigh full of toys and eight tiny reindeer.

My parents read it first, as grim, bleak looks darkened their faces. I took it next in my hands, trying not to shake. Then my stoic younger son read it and I swear tears welled up. And finally, my siblings each read it, growing solemn and tearful. With reverence we held it. Ritualistic almost, handling it like precious china as we passed it from one to the next. Each of us reacted in about the same way. The room deflated. The holiday cheer escaped.

Reading his letter shredded my shiny paper and yanked my red ribbon right off.

I came unwrapped in less than a minute.

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