AnyNumber:None

Sending a life-sized hug for Xmas


In a recent post I asked what you could send for Christmas to a man on Death Row, and you may recall me having said that in fact in the case of my penfriend ‘B’, all the guy really wants in the world is a hug from his mum?

Well, I came up with the idea of making my friend an almost-hug for Christmas. I thought it would fit all the criteria listed here for things that can’t be sent. The only risk is that the mailroom for his facility may not allow an item that is considerably larger than A4 and slightly unusual to be given to him. We’ll see. In the meantime I took photographs, as a record of how my family and myself set about making a ‘hug’ to send over to him, as a gesture that was the closest thing I could come up with to the real thing.
We used Xmas wrapping paper – so that we could get one long continuous section, and so that it would be lightweight. And one side would be snowflakes and Christmas trees. But wrapping paper is frail and so this did mean we had to be careful at every stage not to perforate or tear it.
Creating an outline

The shape of my hug!

So my husband drew around my outline, and then we set about decorating the ‘hug’ with messages, Christmas sketches and cartoons. I encouraged my daughters to graffiti it with anything they liked, really. 

Lucy doodling

Pollydoodles

This of course meant some annotation and friendly bickering between them on paper, but it all added to the character of the piece. Everyone was humble about their drawing ability, but we all had a go. We decided to each do a self-portrait too. I never set out to cover the entire outline with colour – I didn’t want to either overload the paper with ink and risk it tearing, nor to discourage everyone with too much work to do; this was supposed to be a pleasurable exercise after all, not a chore.

Cutting out the shape

Finally, I cut out the shape of the hug. It’s a ‘me’ made from paper that represents the thoughts and friendship of our family.

The added poignancy of this gift is that my penfriend’s ‘house’, as he calls his cell, is less than 6 ft (one armspan) wide. Here’s how he described it to me in a letter after he recently moved accommodation:
“I don’t think I’m going to make it out to yard today. This is unfortunate for me because I need to work out. These houses over here are too narrow to work out in. I guess I could take my mattress off my rack and work out up on here… It’s a little cramped because I have such wide shoulders. The cell is very long and narrow.
I’d guesstimate 5 x 12. My arm span from finger tip to finger tip is 6’0. Everyone’s is their exact height I guess. Anyway from my left finger tips to my right elbow/forearm is the width of the walls….”

Armspan of a hug and width of a cell
As you can see from this photograph, a room-width of less than a double-armspan is not large at all. Claustrophobic? Try it. Stand with your fingertips touching a wall near you. Reach out with the other arm. Now imagine being able to touch another wall with your elbow. Then imagine a metal shelf for a bed also occupying that room-width. Comfy?
Well, the hug was folded carefully and posted to the United States last week. It should arrive in time for Christmas but there’s no telling how long it will remain in the mailroom, or even if it will pass inspection.  We worry it won’t – but at least I have the photos as a record of making the hug and what it looked like in the end. If I haven’t heard that our gift has arrived by mid January then I will be able to send these photos to B so he can see what we had in mind.
Oh – we also sent my penfriend  some cash via JPay for him to spend on commissary, plus a year’s subscription to BBC History magazine as this is a subject of real interest to him, and he has a young mind which needs stimulation. The magazine could spark some areas of specialist interest in due course – I hope so, and will be glad to provide him with further learning material if that’s something he wants to do.
Happy Christmas B – and to his family – and to everyone on Death Row or facing Life Without Parole. And a Happy Christmas and thank you to those who have befriended condemned prisoners and who take time to remember that they are human beings too.
And my wishes for peace to the friends and families of the victims of prisoners on Death Row. 

December 23, 2009 - Posted by | cell, death row, gift, letter, Xmas

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