Liysa Northon

My Children’s First Free Breath

Being in a maximum security prison means that almost everything I did before Oct. 2000 was a "last time" for me ... The last time I swam in the warm turquoise sea with my children, rode a wave, snorkeled with rays. It was the last time I took a bath, sewed a Halloween costume, showed my boys an awe-inspiring place. It was the last time I watched my children sleep, smelled gardenias or sang with friends playing music on the beach. It was the last time I won a prestigious contract, flew to Fiji for a photo shoot, edited amazing footage to music and had the unqualified respect of clients, colleagues and friends. It was the last time I stroked my child's hair when he was sick or sad or scared, or snuggled with them in bed on a snowy morning. It was the last time I had an unmonitored conversation, sliced lemons, chopped cilantro, grilled red peppers, sipped an icy apricot ale, played my marimba or electric guitar, made candles, or bread or brownies. It was the last time I camped on a gravel bar and listened to Brudda Iz, Gerry Mulligan, Joao Alberto, JJ Cale, John Lee Hooker or Antonin Dvonik. It was the last time I ran a white-water rapid, planted a garden, wore a silk shirt, a bikini or a microfiber and fleece gortex-anything that actually fit and was comfortable and not stamped with the orange state emblem.

It was the last time I played with my dog, rode my horse, tasted wasabe and ginger or a fresh nectarine. It was the last time I picked strawberries, slept on sheets that didn't feel like cornmeal. It was the last time I saw the stars, felt the soft earth under my feet instead of concrete, blew bubbles with my boys, tiled a floor, or drove a car. It was the last time I naively believed that the police would help, that lawyers would be honorable (and not steal and try to cover it with lies.) It was the last time I actually expected that people who knew the truth about Chris would stand up and do the right thing, instead of cowardly avoiding involvement.

On the other hand, October 2000 is that last time a child of mine looked up at me with big, scared eyes and begged "Mommy don't let him kill us." It was the last time my son slept with a knife between the mattress and box springs in terror that this would be the night Chris followed through with his threat to "kill us all and bum down the house." It was the last time my children were ever hit, kicked or thrown against the wall, threatened with a weapon or told they were going to be murdered. It was the last time I was ever strangled or thrown our of a moving car, had a black eye or internal injuries. It was the last time my husband threatened to harm the people who harbored us when we fled.

If the laws were equitable, if batterers were actually held accountable in a meaningful way, if strangling your mate and threatening to kill your family were considered attempted murder, and the assaulters were locked up for real, instead of booked and released to come after their families (restraining orders be damned,) then it might be the last time a woman like me had to choose between handcuffs or a headstone. I would not have had to forfeit my own life to be sure that the last time my abusive husband went at my three year old with a knife, would be the last time he ever would.

As it stands now, October of 2000 was the last time I took a free breath. However, it was the first time my children ever could. Now they are waiting another 5 years to leave the prison, for the last time, with me. For good.

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a Misdemeanor?


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What would
Ghandi have done?

WCJNMahatma Ghandi, whose known as the father of non-violence, when asked if faced with a situation of protecting a loved one with violence or remaining passive he said without hesitation you must us violence to protect a loved one because cowardice and standing idly by is a far greater sin than protecting what you love.