Each year in the Seagoville Federal Prison the seven dorms have a Christmas decorating contest. Each building is judged as to which is the most decorative and creative. Believe it or not, months of preparation go into this as it is a very big deal for some people. For me, I just love looking at all the Christmas decorations and getting in the Christmas spirit. The dorm winning first prize gets a movie in the auditorium and gets to go first to the chow hall on Christmas Day. (And if you read my previous blog on November 12 entitled “Ready.Set.Go” then you know that going first to eat is a big deal). Unfortunately, nothing of a Christian nature can be used for the contest. The theme chosen by my dorm is “The Grinch” from Dr. Seuss. There are some very creative people in my dorm who recreated life-sized figures of all the Whovilles and even the Grinch himself. It is a spectacular sight to see and I wish I could take a picture of it.
A few days ago I was able to sneak into the reigning champs building and see what masterpiece they are working on this year. And let me tell you, a masterpiece it is! They recreated a Christmas morning living room with a tree, presents, chairs, and a two-story high glowing fireplace with a chimney. All of this was made out of cardboard!!! The artistic abilities that are in this compound could easily fill an art museum. It’s simply amazing the skill some people have. So the entire compound now looks very festive, and I am loving it!
Unfortunately, during this season of the year, some of the attitudes of the inmates change, even as we enjoy the change of routine. They miss their families and holiday traditions. It is a time that all of us get homesick. But I do my best to stay positive. When I think of the holidays now, I get more excited and anxious as to what I have to look forward to again when I leave here. I have numerous Christmas memories during my life and I know there will be many more to come in just a few short years. Here is a list of some of the memories I have that make me think of home during this time:
• Receiving Nintendo from Santa Claus
• Rob your neighbor game on Christmas Eve at my grandparents’ home
• The Old Woman in a Jar that gets passed around every Christmas
• Shrimp platters
• Christmas lights at Lady of the Snow Shrine every Christmas night
• Christmas Eve candlelight service
• Making a family video that remembers the highlights from the past year
• Singing Little Drummer Boy
• Playing Scattegories
• Watching basketball on Christmas Day with Uncle Melvin and listening to his hilarious comments
• Ski trip to Breckenridge CO
• Cutting down a Christmas tree followed by dinner at Pizza Hut – did this for 10 years straight
• 7-layer bars that my Mom always tried to hide for herself
• Snooping for hidden presents (found them once and got in big trouble!)
• Christmas morning stocking stuffers
• Playing and singing Christmas carols with my guitar
• Gooey butter cake
• Getting measured by my grandpa on his measuring stick
• “Ho Ho Ho Merry Christmas” Santa that spoke those words every time you walked by him at my grandparents
• Cut out cookies and decorating them
• The huge star on the roof of Grandma and Grandpa’s. Where is that star now?
• Breakfast with the neighbors on Christmas Eve morning
• Decorating the Christmas tree with our own ornaments from years past
• Christmas jigsaw puzzle that my mom puts out on Thanksgiving to be finished by Christmas
• Shopping for my family members….and getting yelled at because I only spent .99 on Christmas mints for my Mom one year
• Driving around and looking at Christmas lights
• Decorating the room I shared with my brother with Christmas lights
• Watching Christmas movies with the family – It’s a Wonderful Life, Charlie Brown Christmas, Home Alone, Elf, A Christmas Carol, Little House on the Prairie, the Herdmans, Christmas Vacation
• Opening gifts at my grandparents, youngest to oldest and then waiting for my Grandma to open allllllll of hers…..she always seemed to get the most.
• Family pictures in front of the Christmas tree
• My Grandpa always asking every year when he would open up one of his gifts if anyone had a pocketknife …..one year we all then handed him a knife! He laughed so hard!!
• Red ribbons on the antlers of the mounted deer head.
• Using the front door on Christmas Eve at my grandparents – the rest of the year we entered through the garage
These are special memories of good times and great laughs with my family, moments I will never forget. And now for these next few years as I put my family memories on hold, I’ll be creating new memories with my new friends I’ve made here. No, it’s not the same as being around family. But these will be special times, too; times I will never forget for as long as I live. No matter what circumstance I am in, Christmas can be a special time.
Wherever you are in life right now….with family or separated, hospitalized, in the military, going through a divorce, grieving over a loss, between jobs…..make some memories of this special season of the year. Do something out of the ordinary; it doesn’t always have to be done the same way. Volunteer or help a neighbor out. Start a new family tradition. But most importantly, give your time and glory to God in all that you do, remembering that Jesus is the real reason for Christmas. Take time to get to one of the many worship services available at this time. May God bless you and your families as you celebrate His birth and spend time with those you love!
Merry Christmas – from my heart to yours!!
P.S. My building won the decorating competition!!