Where Everything Feels Fine

I wake up slowly. I look out of the window right in front of my bed. Big white flakes are falling from the sky. The big oak tree in the yard below has a white winter cap. The world outside is pale white. I draw the covers just a little tighter around me, soak up the warmth and softness of them. Then I remember what day it is and I'm filled with expectation.

I pull my feet out of bed. A chill runs through me as they meed the cold wooden floor. I consider returning to bed, but after a second of contemplating it, I throw off the covers completely and rise. As I open my door the smell of rice-pudding cooking hits me. My step-dad is standing by the stove making his famous special Christmas rice-pudding, the kind that takes hours to make but is better than any other I've ever tasted.

He turns as he hears the door open. I'm a bit surprised he heard me considering the volume of Bing Crosby in the background.

"Good morning," he greets me with a smile, "sleepy-head." He adds with a wink. I grin. I still haven't looked at a clock but I doubt that I'd wake up before eleven - even on a day like this.

"Where's mom?" I ask. "And when do we eat?" I take a big sniff of the air and smile to tell him I want it to be soon.

"She's in the living room with Cecilia. The food won't be readly for another half-hour at least. Andreas, Niklas and Olle have yet to show - so you have time to shower and change."

After the shower I quickly get dressed in my new white cotton dress. It has lace at the collar, on the skirt lining and around the waist. I don a red hair band and a necklace of big red sparkles. In addition, I wear a pair of red slippers - making me feel a bit like Dorothy.

A knock on my door startles me in my hurry to get ready.

"What?!" I yell, still a bit freaked out.

"Is the Princess done yet?" Andreas' voice comes through the door, I can hear the smirk on his face. I smile. Because even though they annoy me constantly, there's nothing I love as much as my brothers. I know that when they annoy me it's their way of saying "I love you". Which is why I secretly love it. Although I still put up an agitated front - all the fun would be lost otherwise.

I open the door with a bored and irritated look.

"You're one to talk Sleeping Beauty." It's hard to keep from smiling when I finally see him. I haven't seen him for almost six months because he's studying fashion in Antwerp. he gives me a big smile and an even longer hug. It feels great to be close to him after such a long time. Home.

We jibe and joke our way into the living room where Christmas lunch is being served. Cecilia is still touching up the decorations on the tree - she settles for nothing but perfection. Olle and Erik are in a corner on the couch whispering - probably writing last minute rhymes. Mom tells the room that lunch is ready and goes to turn down Slade on the stereo.

The rice-pudding is delicious as expected. We laugh and have a good time. We joke about who could've stolen the McDonalds Christmas bulb - mom is a strong suspect. Although Cecilia is quite high up on the most-wanted list as well.

When lunch is finished we all help clear off the table. The kitchen gets packed when we're all in there. Therefore, mom tells us that, despite our good intentions, we'd be of more help somewhere else.

We watch Donald Duck on TV. Niklas and I argue about which part is the best - the camping trip or the annoying bird. Of course, I'm all for the camping trip - it's been my favourite for as long as I can remember.

The bell-like sound of Cecilia's laughter fills the room as she is attacked by Andreas - once the tickling has started she has no hope of escaping. Laughing with her entire being, she tries to break free. Niklas sees this and immediately moves to help Andreas. By now everybody's laughing, even the Santa on the TV.

The time comes for the presents to be opened. Many spontaneous - and bad! - rhymes are created as gifts are handed out. As usual, no wrapping is as pretty or detailed as Cecilia's. Every gift wrapping is unique and has its own little details. My own failed attempts at gift wrapping looks like an Eastern German house next to the Palace of Versailles. Not to mention, some of Olle's and Erik's gifts are wrapped in toilet paper with copious amounts of tape.

In addition to the pretty glittery gift wrappings, Cecilia has made home-made chocolates. She makes them every year and everybody gets their own small bag of them. The ribbon with which she has tied the small plastic bag together, on mine, is red with small glittery golden stars. I've never met someone who is quite as attached to glitter and small details as Cecilia.

After all the presents have been opened, we call grandmother and grandfather. Mercifully, they'd gone to Gotland for the Holidays. I thank them for my presents - of which the most prominent was a gift certificate for a store I like. At least they admit to not knowing what I really like and settle for something I can actually use.

As I'm talking to grandmother, my mom and my step-dad is laying dinner on the table. To be honest, I don't like much that's part of traditional Christmas dinner. However, the meatballs my step-dad cooks every year - and only for Christmas, despite my persistent insisting that he should make them at Midsummer too - are as delicious as food can get. Mom also makes a special Jansson for me every year - without the fish - that's basically a funny looking pomme de gratin.

We sit by the dinner table and eat, drink, joke and laugh for hours. I imagine we must look like one of those perfect American families you see on TV. At the time I feel like it too. Only perhaps a bit odder - or more normal, depending on how you look at it.

I'm completely happy.

***

I wake up slowly. I look out of the window right in front of my bed. Big white flakes are falling from the sky. The big oak tree in the yard below has a white winter cap. The world outside is pale white. I draw the covers just a little tighter around me, soak up the warmth and softness of them. Then I remember what day it is and I'm filled with an indescribable sadness.

It's the day of the funeral.

Cecilia's funeral.