By Sean Cruz
We were three generations gathered together, my mother, my four children and I, that Christmas Eve so long ago. A fire burned in the hearth against the winter night. Love and tradition making up for what we lacked in money, we exchanged gifts for what we did not yet know would be the last time, our last holiday together, this Eve of Abduction, the night before Christmas, 1995.
I had become my medically fragile mother’s sole caregiver, and had maintained this home for us and for my children under an order for joint custody. My former wife and I had shared the children for the holidays for the five years that had followed the divorce, but that was about to come to an abrupt end, vicious and cruel, a cold-blooded kidnapping in the making, a Mormon shunning in the first degree.
Mormons in three states were planning to cause my children to disappear into a series of secret locations in Utah, were in fact finalizing their plans during this very Christmas holiday, furtively arranging housing, employment and a rousing Mormon welcome for my former wife and her four freshly abducted children with Mormon zealots Chris and Kory Wright.
But my mother, my children and I were unaware of all of this at the time, and the video we shot of ourselves that Christmas Eve captured some of the last moments of childhood innocence the Cruz family would ever experience. After this evening, there would be no more holiday gatherings, no birthdays, no communications at all to record. Only the Mormons knew what was about to come, criminally complicit and firm in their fucked-up self-importance.
My mother would live for four more years, without seeing or hearing from her grandchildren again. That’s the way the Mormons roll, separating families into Mormon and non-Mormon contingents, among the most intolerant, controlling and hypocritical of religious sects, the American Taliban, some of them.
My eldest son, Aaron, 14 years old at the time, surprised me with a wonderful gift, a wrist watch. He had saved his money for some time to pay for it, and I asked him “How did you do this?” when I opened the box. He had just smiled, enjoying the moment even more than I did.
The Mormons caused my children to disappear on Monday, February 12, 1995, a day when they should have been in school with their friends. They were taken by a roundabout, circuitous route to the home of Chris and Kory Wright, I would later learn, in the mountains east of Ogden, Utah.
When my son’s 15th birthday came around on March 21, I had no address to even send him a card. And later that year, he would begin carving up his arms with a knife, isolated and depressed, held captive in Mormon Utah.
The watch Aaron gave me that last Christmas Eve has become perhaps my most treasured possession. It stopped running years ago, and a piece of clear tape holds the crystal together. I have never taken it off since that night, now sixteen years ago, other than to keep it dry. I keep the clasp closed with another piece of tape, so that it stays on my wrist always.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night….