When the Holidays Stopped Being Fun

When the Holidays Stopped Being Fun

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Christmas is nothing without my freedom.

Those winter nights, tossing and turning, patiently waiting for Christmas were overwhelming as a child. I remember we could only open one gift before bedtime on Christmas Eve every year. Clothes, shoes, toys, bikes -- you name it, I was always blessed with it on Christmas.

My family wasn’t the richest on the block, but during this holiday it always seemed as if we were. All the kids in my neighborhood would wander the streets of Oakland showing off their new gear, toys and shoes. Christmas seemed like everyone’s birthday.

There is an old saying that if you are bad, then Santa will leave a piece of coal in your stocking. Eventually, I got a little older and began to act out more on the streets and in school. I never received coal. However I did receive a cold wake up call one year when I had to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas in juvenile hall.

That was when Christmas stopped being fun. I realized that whatever decisions I make, I would have to suffer the consequences by myself and the world would go on with or without me. Fun is okay, but fun got me locked up. Christmas, my birthday and New Years’s day -- all spent in a cold cell thinking about getting out.

This is what happened: some of my friends from the neighborhood had a weekend pass from Camp Sweeney (juvenile facility), so we all went out riding around, five cars deep, partying. We were all minors without drivers’ licenses and none of the drivers owned cars. I was 13 and the youngest. These boys had stolen all five cars and had gallons of alcohol in the vehicles. They all took turns driving, while we rode around the town to parties and different spots.

At the end of the night, my cousin volunteered to take all the girls home. It was about two a.m. so we all hopped into one car. It was me, my cousin and three of my close friends. Three blocks away from my house we get pulled over. We knew it was over because the police officer saw the screwdriver that was used to start the car. He called backup and told us to sit tight while he took names.

That’s how I ended up spending Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s day in juvenile hall. It got even worse. I got put on a special program for fighting and couldn’t go to the Christmas dinner at jvenile hall. So while everybody was eating and getting gifts, I was handed a regular food tray in a cold room. This day it seemed five times colder. I thought about the outside and what all my friends and family were doing.

Ever since that year I spent in juvie for the holidays, Christmas wasn’t fun for me anymore but I learned the importance of family. Fun is a word from my past when it came to Christmas. My current word regarding the holidays is: thankful. I’m thankful to be in control of my life and to be around family, comfort and laughter. This is worth way more than any toy or shoes or whatever. Of course I still get gifts, but no gift in the world can give me the feeling of just being with my family.

Christmas is nothing without my freedom.

Kalei Meyers, 20 is a content producer at YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia.