Those left in my family since the loss of my daughter, Valerie, crowded around the lit tree, except for me. I sat in the background. She had never liked anyone touching her things. During the decorating, I had been the one to hang her Mouse King.
Since my three children were young, I had given them ornaments suited to their tastes. The year I’d taken them to The Nutcracker ballet, I gave Tamara Clara and Chad the Prince. Valerie had jumped up and down when she ripped the tissue off the fierce Mouse King, brandishing a gold sword.
Like any other year, my husband masqueraded as an elf, passing out candy canes, then presents from under the tree. Peach daylight dawned through the bay window pane. Across the steep street, the sturdy pines bent from the weight of the deep, clinging snow.
Cross-legged in his red tights, my husband held our baby grandson in his lap. With the push of a button, his striped stocking-cap curtseyed to the beat of “Jingle Bells.” Baby Jacob reached for the dancing hat. My elf-husband pulled the brim down over the baby’s head and scooped him up into his arms. Jacob giggled. That was when I saw the flash of resemblance. Valerie’s heart-shaped face, her dimpled smile, peeked out from the baby’s grin.
I stood transfixed, peppermint soothing the bitterness I tasted. Tchaikovsky’s battle song heralded from the radio. My elf-husband waltzed with baby Jacob, Valerie still hovering, and hugged me to them.
Priscilla Bourgoine practices as a psychotherapist outside of Boston and offers remote therapy through a Manhattan company. She earned an MFA in creative writing from Queens University of Charlotte. Her work has appeared in Brain, Child; Germ Literary Magazine; and elsewhere. She lives in southern New Hampshire with her husband.