Every year I have to survive the holidays in prison. I get through them as best I can and then in late January I regroup and make a plan for next year. You see, my holiday season looks like this:

-November 25th, middle child’s birthday
-December 2nd, Mother’s birthday
-December 13th, oldest child’s birthday
-New Year’s
-January 25, youngest child’s birthday
-February 25th, my birthday

The last one, my birthday, I have refused to celebrate since I’ve been in prison because by the time it hits my guilt and shame is so visceral that I cannot imagine celebrating my life. Once I get out I will have missed 11 years of all my children, in fact, they will all be grown and will have experienced the most important years of their lives without me and because of me.

What’s to celebrate?

But I do understand that at some point I have to move on, I have to rise from the ashes of the life I torched. So I plan ahead of time. This year I am determined to make new memories instead of flogging myself over old ones. I’m going to appreciate what is and not what might have been if I just didn’t…This year I’ll give gifts and cook chocolate thingies and sweet somethings. I am even thinking about making a mold to make my own 5-lb Cookies n’ Creme bar of chocolate, because why not?

I might make little decorations and string them up, snowflakes for my cell and little paper rings to spruce up some holiday spirit. Either way, this is the year I move on, this is the year I take my life back.

With Love
Ruth Utnage