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A most memorable Thanksgiving in prison included good food and a game of monopoly.
Photo by kmiragaya on Depositphotos

Many people in prison are sad or upset on Thanksgiving, but it is still my favorite holiday of the year. I have learned to enjoy it no matter who I am with or where I am at.  

During my incarceration, I’ve tried to find my mental sweet spot — an outlook that allows me to be grateful for who I am, what I have and for the holiday season. It has worked for me and allowed me to enjoy many Thanksgivings behind bars. 

My most memorable Thanksgiving experience in prison came in 2018. 

I had just been released from solitary confinement the day before. I looked horrific. I had a long, scruffy beard, matted dreads and clothes that smelled like death. The property room was closed, and I didn’t have anything else to wear.

That was a problem, since my aunt was coming to visit me the next day. When I arrived at my new cell, I was greeted by my cellmate, a cool trans woman named Donna. Donna frowned when she saw me, but with a mother’s love. She immediately went to work on me, re-twisting and braiding my dreads, shaving my face, finding me clean clothes, giving me another reason to be thankful. 

On Thanksgiving, I was excited. I could not wait for my visit with my aunt. She had cooked for the occasion and had somehow charmed the guards into allowing her to bring in food, even though I was not eligible for a food visit. 

We ate good: macaroni and cheese, sweet Hawaiian rolls, fried chicken tenders, collard greens with salt pork and my favorite holiday food, chitterlings (don’t judge y’all, it’s a tradition I love).

We ate and laughed while we played Monopoly. Catching up on old times and old people, we enjoyed ourselves to the fullest. After my visit was over, I returned to my cell. 

There, I was greeted by a large group of people eating a holiday meal. They had cheeseburgers, banquet fried chicken, macaroni, cheesecakes, steamed rice, noodles and a whole lot more. 

I was amazed at the scene. The same people who were usually at odds with each other had made a conscious decision to enjoy Thanksgiving together. Some of those in attendance were death row inmates, and it could have possibly been their last holiday ever. They taught me a valuable lesson: to be grateful for the now because it’s all you got. 

After all, how can you enjoy what comes later in life if you can’t find a reason to enjoy the present? 

That is one of the reasons I enjoy Thanksgiving so much. It’s the one day where I am able to reach deep down into my supply of emergency powers and find a way to enjoy myself.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Summer Breeze is the pen name of a Black trans writer incarcerated in Missouri.