Christmas is not typically an enjoyable time of year for us, but this year was completely different. We went into December preparing for our Family Visit, which was a date we were extremely lucky to get: December 21st. We considered it somewhat of a Christmas miracle that we even got such a great date. We would be able to celebrate Christmas together at Family Visit, and then have a regular visit on Christmas day. Last year there was no Family Visit in December for us. We were both very excited and made lots of fun plans to bring Christmas to the Family Visiting Unit. I bought a Christmas table cover, paper plates, napkins and a cookie tray to bring in and make it more colorful. I also brought in my Christmas hand towels & kitchen towels to give the place a more homey feeling. Since I am not allowed to give my husband actual gifts he can keep, besides ordering books or photos, I planned a treasure hunt with rhyming Christmas themed clues. I printed out Christmas coloring pages, and mad-libs from online for us to play together. Sean worked on his surprise project; making us little stockings with our initials on them. He had to really search in order to hunt down red material and when he brought them out at Family Visit it was such a surprise. Our table looked very jolly and merry, it was great.
At our Family Visit we did indeed celebrate Christmas. We wore our cozy Christmas jammies the entire time. We baked special white chocolate peppermint cookies, and watched Christmas Carolers on TV. Sean loved his surprise treasure hunt and I enjoyed watching him search for the clues I had hidden. I can still picture the excited smile on his face and the way he eagerly scuffled around in his Santa hat and jammies. In the morning, Santa put mini candy bars in our tiny stockings. To top it all off Sean made amazing enchiladas using chicken from the vending machine. They were as good as I had ever made enchiladas on the outside, if not better. He is a great cook!
This is not to say that our Family Visit was one long party and that it felt no different than if we were to have Christmas at home. That is definitely not true. No matter what, Family Visit is always bittersweet because it flies by so fast that we can barely hold onto it and before we know it, it’s time to say goodbye. Leaving him behind is so painful it makes me sick to my stomach and it feels like the most unnatural thing I ever have to do. We also deal with a lot of very real raw experiences that are made more condensed and challenging due to being locked in a prison without real world resources. We have gone through excruciating emotions due to being kept apart, illness, and physical injuries. But Sean is the one who helps us navigate through it. Without complaint he has built a tent of sheets at 2 am to enclose a steaming pot of water and tea bags in order to alleviate my congestion, sat with me inside the tent and then replenished the steaming water. He has engineered countless ice packs and heat packs and replaced them time and time again to help me with pain. He has heated water on the stove, one cooking pot at a time in order to allow for me to take a hot bath to help with migraines, pulled muscles, and even an ovarian cyst rupture. He has sat next to me holding my hand while I lay in the bath, getting up only to pour in another pot of hot water and replace it on the stove again. It’s these tender real moments that balance out the hardships we face. I know I can count on him when things are hard, and he knows he can count on me. Everything we do, we do as a family. We are a strong team working toward a common goal, and we have never been stronger.
Sean wrote: Family Visit is always special and it is the real life moments that we cannot plan or control that make each family visit unique and gives us a glimpse of real life. We learn about ourselves and each other. Each experience draws us closer together and continually strengthens our love and marriage. To me, waking up at 2:30 am to help you and take care of you is special. Of course I never ever want you to experience anything bad or painful or scary, but when you do, I am able to care for you and show you my love for you in my response and actions. I love taking care of you.”
“If you assume that there’s no hope, you guarantee that there will be no hope. If you assume that there is an instinct for freedom, there are opportunities to change things, there’s a chance you may contribute to making a better world.” Noam Chomsky
Thank you to Santa’s secret helpers and Earthly Angels who helped make our season merry and bright! God bless