Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer plays on the downstairs TV and Jingle Bells chimes on the Christmas clock in the kitchen. The smell of pine fills the living room and lit candles adorn almost every flat surface in the house. The bells on the front door jingle every time we come or go, which seems to be a lot today. The Christmas lights on the front shrubs blink under the soft white snow that began falling around three o’clock.

And I water the withering poinsettia.

I open the holiday cards that arrived in the mail.

I make a list of the gifts I still need to buy.

I make pork chops with rice for dinner and serve it on my good Christmas dishes.

And then I warm up hot chocolate on the stove and pour it into a snowman mug, topping it with whipped cream and mini chocolate chips.

And I sit on the couch, watching Alec play with a toy truck on the floor.

And finally, I cry.

Actually, I weep. My body heaves and my head throbs and I mop at the tears with my sweater sleeve. And I decide that I just want Christmas to stop. I just want everything to stop.

Annabelle and Eve come upstairs and ask me what’s wrong and I tell them I’m sad.

“Because today is Sophia’s birthday,” I say. “She would have been five years old.”

They look at me, wanting me to stop crying, I know. But I don’t hide my Sophia tears from them. Because they know that for every time I cry for her, there are a hundred times that I smile.

Annabelle decides the table would be decorated with Hello Kitty because that’s what she’d be into this year. Eve thinks Sophia would have worn a fancy dress and an orange bow in her hair (because orange is her favorite color, too.)

Annabelle wants to take the pink photo album out of Sophia’s trunk and I agree. We page through the photos slowly and with each one, Annabelle and Eve giggle about something.

“Look Mom, she had two teeth on the bottom, just like Alec!”

“Mom! She looks just like Eve in this one!”

“Ohmygosh! Remember when we took Sophia to the Zoo?!“

I wipe away the last of my tears and I smile.

And the Christmas season stops for just a minute.

Because today is Sophia’s birthday.