There's nothing like the feeling of a "first". There many firsts in life - the first day of school, first kiss, first new home, the birth of the first child.
Some firsts are not nearly as pleasant - the first breakup, the first major illness, the first visit to a dentist. I've survived my first car accident, my first surgery, my first trip in an ambulance, and my first house fire. Last week I experienced another "first".
Last week I traveled to the bustling metropolis of Wasco, California. I ventured out to this small dot of a town just Northwest of Bakersfield for the very same reason most people "visit" Wasco - to see a loved one who is incarcerated in Wasco State Prison. The first thing you notice as you turn left off of Highway 46 onto the prison property is how very familiar everything looks. Not the same kind of familiarity one has with a place they've been before, but rather it is seeing for the first time something up close and personal that you've only seen in films or television dramas. Yes, prisons really are surrounded by tall fences topped with rolled barbed wire. Yes, there really are tall towers standing in the center and on all four corners of the prison yard from which armed officers keep an eagle eye out for the first hint of trouble.
I had received a list of clothing items I COULD NOT wear onto the prison grounds and I went through three or four outfits at home before feeling confident that I wouldn't be denied a visit because of a clothing infraction. I couldn't wear anything that was made of denim and I couldn't wear any shade of blue. If I wore a skirt it had to be a certain length and could not have a slit. I couldn't wear a bra that contained any form of under wire or any metal at all. Upon entering the prison I could keep with me just two keys, my ID, and $30 in one dollar bills and/or quarters only.
My visit lasted just one hour and just like in the County Jail, there was a piece of glass between me and my son. I sat in the booth that had been assigned me and looked into the handsome young face of my 21-year old son....a felon. From the moment he was born I called my son, "Angel Face" and when I looked into his sad yet courageous blue eyes, I saw my baby.