'Innocence' by Cookie

This post was written by Cookie, a client of the Centre for Criminal Appeals whose story is told in the podcast Surviving Injustice. Listen here: http://www.criminalappeals.org.uk/podcast/

This year, as the innocent snow dances across the park, I will hold your gloved hands. The three of us will step on the new crispness as we walk our way to see Father Christmas. And I will promise you both that on our return journey we will build a snowman. Reaching into my handbag I will pull out a fresh, bright carrot- my proof that snowman building is promised.

Your little faces will glow, winter touched rosy cheeks and sparkling eyes. Giggles and excitement spilling from your mouths.

Eagerly you will rush off, running into the snow coated grass, to start building...and I will call to you. Pulling you from frosty frolics, to remind you of where we are going; who we will see.

And the two of you will again race ahead. Welly boots, pictures of dogs and cats, crunching through unmarked snow. (Is there anything as glorious as innocent children leaving their mark on innocent snow? Or their warm breath melting the coldness?)

When I finally catch up to you both we will walk, together, through the rear door of the shopping centre. Looking in shop windows, finding reindeer and elves, we will progress further in, seeking out "Santa's grotto"...
And there he will be. His big, red form seated, surrounded by wrapped presents, tinsel and lights, waiting for you.

And you, my daughter, will be fearless and confident, as always. Eager to climb onto his lap and tell him all your hopes for Christmas.

But, being as you are, you will restrain your eagerness. Firstly, you will ensure your brother is with you. Even at your young age you have noticed how rarely he steps away from me. How he needs me or you to give him the confidence to meet strangers. And, knowing this, you will take his hand. You will give up your time alone with Father Christmas as you realise your brother will not be able to see him without you.

I will stand on the edge of the grotto and watch, with an exploding heart, as you- the protective and caring big sister-in-law your brother to see Father Christmas.

And as you both climb upon his lap I will watch. Camera at the ready.

And I will listen, carefully. Listen to your lists of what you hope he will bring you...a dog, farm set, garage, Thomas the tank engine, and Scooby Doo.

Make-up, a hoover...evidence of your time with your aunt's and cousins

A tractor that makes sounds...time with your dad

A drill...time with your first dad

Books and music...time with me.

At that moment, that instance, as you both sit there and detail so much, I will be incredibly proud of you both. And I will be in awe, as I always am with the both of you. You are amazing children.

With photographs taken and gifts given  you will both climb off his lap and return to me. Full of excitement. The absolute belief that you have met Father Christmas, and the certainty that he knows what you want for Christmas, will enliven and enthuse you both.

Waving goodbye to Father Christmas we will walk along the shops to a cafe. The sign in the window tells us that this is where Santa's helpers come for a Christmas biscuit. And as we enter, the lady behind the counter, complete with Christmas jumper, hat and earrings, winks at me and tells you both that you just missed a couple of elves having a break before they return to the North Pole to make more toys.

You, my daughter, will be disappointed to have missed Santa's elves but will happily chat with the lady anyway. In the end, our orders placed, she will direct you both to the table where the elves had sat. So, this is where we'll sit...the elves seats, drinking milk and eating Christmas themed biscuits just as the elves had.

Opening your gifts from Father Christmas one of you will find a toy dog-small enough to squeeze into your pocket. Brown fur and large floppy ears. And one of you will find a set of three cars...blue, red, green. You will tell me how your dad has a blue car, a Ford.

The cars and dog will move along the table as we eat and drink. Christmas wrapping paper and empty packaging shoved into my bag to give you more play space.

And, finally, we will leave. Heading back to the park and our snowman building.

Sitting here now, I am watching you. My mind filled with memories of Christmases past. My heart filled with love.

And my soul with despair. For the only way I can watch you, the only way I can experience these things with you, build snowmen with you both, is in my mind. My innocent children leaving your mark on innocent snow...as I sit here, wrongly convicted.

Naima Sakande