It’s the start of a new year. The tree and her decorations are taken down, we set out the King’s cake and simmer wassail on the stove as we undecorate. It is the twelfth night of Christmas. Ford unhooks ornaments that we made together when Chas was a newborn, little salt dough disks that we stamped lace and dots and little fingertips into, then painted with watercolors. His personal favorite though, a small gourd etched into an owl’s likeness, is gently placed among them. I walk around the tree, collecting lengths of tiny lights, still lit, already missing the smell of sweet pine needles in the house. It was a good, robust, perfectly manicured white fir, and it is still alive even though we cut it the day after Thanksgiving. We box up all the ornaments, tucking them all snug among each other, and place the eight year-old old cardboard box in the living room closet. Each of us gets a slice of the King’s cake, the dessert that begins the Mardi Gras season.
Chas gets the slice with the baby inside. He will make the King’s cake next year.
I sink down into the sofa, thirty pounds heavier now over the past nine months, and watch the weight of the boy’s unborn little sister shift across my belly. She is always awake, so eager she seems to be with them. Chas folds himself over her in an embrace, lifting up my shirt to kiss her unimpeded. There are only days to go. In many ways this year seems so blessed and fortuitous; so many adventures on our horizon that I’m giddy and yet, in so many other ways, I am in no hurry to birth. This brief, wonderful, healthy pregnancy has been a gift to us all, but felt especially powerful to me. I want to keep her close just a bit longer, in the chaotic orbit of her doting older brothers.