It is snowing in Vancouver. It only snows here once or twice a year, or some years, like last year, not at all. For E, it’s like magic, the huge white flakes swirling out of the heavy grey sky, so much more lovely than our usual rain. She ran the whole way to kindergarten this morning, away from me and back to me, laughing and exclaiming, ‘I caught a snowflake on my tongue, Mommy! Your hat is covered in snow! Moo has snowflakes on his booties! I’m going to make a snow angel at recess! It’s so beautiful, Mommy! Santa will LOVE it!’

It is magical. I told her about the winter of 2008, how at about this same time in December Daddy and Mommy went out for dinner with friends, how it was snowing when we left and how after we’d eaten and laughed for hours with our friends, we walked home late and there was a blanket of snow over everything, and in the orange light of the streetlamps the snowflakes swirled madly around, and how she was getting so big in my tummy and nearly ready to come out and meet us, and how happy, happy, happy we were. And E smiled and laughed and ran ahead of me down the street.

And I remembered my other daughter, also born in snow. Two daughters, both born in the snow, in a city where it doesn’t really snow.

The snow feels bittersweet to me. Today, more bitter than sweet. It is a day exactly like the day we came home from the hospital after Anja died. E could not wait to get outside and build a snowman, and the three of us (so recently four) walked out into the park and built a colony of tiny snowmen while the tears ran steadily down my cheeks. I took a break to call the funeral home to arrange her cremation, but couldn’t speak at all over my sobs when the receptionist answered. I had to hang up and try again later.

I think I’m glad we didn’t have any snow last year.

* * *

Yesterday, we had a birthday party for E. Seven little girls and E at a painting studio, where they learned how to paint Monet’s lilypads and then had vanilla cake with pink lemonade frosting that E helped me make. There were goody bags and magic wands and it was cozy and warm and brightly coloured and the girls laughed and screeched and told silly five-year-old kid jokes. It was perfect. And sitting on my heart, always, always, the girl who will never turn five. Our Baby Sister. Little Baby Cheeses.

* * *

And then there’s Christmas. We are not putting up a tree this year because we are spending the holidays with R’s parents back east. Last year, we bought a tree ornament for Anja, and we plan to buy one this year, too; two, actually, so we can bring one to R’s parents for their tree. Even though we decided not to put up our own tree, I could not stop thinking of that little tiny ornament stuffed in a box at the bottom of the closet. I felt almost panicky thinking of it. But the practical side of me thought about what a pain in the ass it would be to unpack all the ornaments in order to find Anja’s. And the grief-curmudgeon side of me thought, ‘What does it matter if the ornament is packed away or taken out? She’s still dead. She’ll always be dead.’

In the end, we took her out. We bought a little tiny tree, a foot tall, at the corner store, and pulled out our smallest decorations, including hers, and I felt better. We listened to the Christmas carols that still break my heart but that help me feel close to that time two years ago when she was still safe inside me and I was sure of her coming and we were all so happy. When sweet was just sweet; when magic was pure whimsy and not this aching wish.

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