Mother was devout, but she had a frisky side. One time when my father was away she and a friend went to town and came home with a Christmas tree. Imagine! This was completely forbidden in the FLDS. We decorated it with lights and homemade ornaments. I knew it was wrong to participate in such a worldly tradition, but I was having too much fun to care. Mother beamed. She loved our Christmas tree. We popped popcorn and made garlands for the tree. Before we went to bed that night we hung up our stockings and Mama told us there would be a prize in each of them the next morning. Nothing like this had happened in our lives before. The thought of presents made us wild with anticipation.

The next morning we found not only candy canes and fruit in our stockings but a present under the tree. My father let us have candy once a year—no more. My mother was clearly disobeying our father in giving us sugary treats. And she let us eat them before we had our breakfast!

Linda and I were old enough to realize that Mama was going to have to pay for her disobedience, but we loved feeling so spoiled. We had pancakes for breakfast and then went to the house of Mama's friend, who'd also given her children a Christmas. These children told us Santa Claus had brought them presents, but we said ours came from Mama.

My father came home the next night. I went to sleep listening to them fighting and screaming. The next morning, our Christmas tree was gone. Mama was crying when she fixed us breakfast. When we finished eating, Linda and I went outside to play and saw the Christmas tree lying under the house, stripped of its glittery lights.

My mother was a beautiful person when she was happy. She glowed with delight and laughter the night we put up the tree. During these good times, Mother carried herself with poise and elegance and realized that she was a woman worthy of love. In Salt Lake City, we had been very happy and Mother was engaged in the world around her. In Colorado City, she was locked into a world of constant pregnancies, a loveless marriage, and a rural community strung together with dirt roads.

See where Carolyn Jessop is today.
Excerpted from Escape by Carolyn Jessop with Laura Palmer. Copyright © 2007 by Carolyn Jessop with Laura Palmer. Excerpted by permission of Broadway, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


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