After some time had passed and the children had opened most of their stocking gifts, I felt a small hand on my knee, and it was Aoife standing by my side.
A few minutes later I ask her if she'd like to see if Liam wants to help her to open Charlotte's things, and so they work together, and they find a little, yellow-haired dolly wrapped in pink tissue, and the book "The Fall of Freddie the Leaf". I wonder to myself if Charlotte would even like little dolls. Aoife clutches the doll to her chest, and returns to my lap. She brings me such peace.
The day moves along until finally the pile under the tree has been reduced to a houseful of new surprises being tried out, a pile of boxes, a bagful of ribbon, and a giant sack full of pretty decent looking used wrapping paper to use again next Christmas. There are potatoes and cauliflower cooking in the oven, green beans and an apple-beet puree, and a local ham in the oven to enjoy. A pile of sweet confections waits on the counter. The children read their books, the snow sparkles in the warm winter sun outside, wine is poured. Charlotte is still gone. My first child is still dead.