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On Christmas morning, Alis is entertained with the paper which wrapped her presents, the boxes in which they came, and the sticky side of the bows, which she cannot seem to shake off her fingers. She is not so concerned with the gifts themselves. Which is a shame, as my daughter has been absolutely spoiled. Her splendid hoard of toys and books is even more abundant than I ever remember Kintyre's being on his birthday. Of course, there is no Christmas in Hain, and any gifts given at Solsticetide are food or drink, unless given between spouses, pairs, those who are trothed, or lovers. So to be confronted with the pile of tokens gifted to my daughter by her grand- and great-grandparents, as well as our good friends, is quite startling. Pip laughs and calls it consumerist nonsense for a baby who won't even remember, but even she is not immune to the romance of plying our daughter's first holiday with overabundance.

Worn out by all the preparation that had gone into our Solsticetide festivities and heartily sick of the leftovers, Pip decides that our Christmas Day feast will not consist of turkey, but take-away. Pip closes her eyes and plucks one of the flyers out of the fan I present to her. Indian. That sounds good.

"Mmm, curry!" I tell Alis, who is snugged in her mother's arms, her wee cardigan covered over with festive bows. She fusses if we try to remove them.

She says "Mmm!" back, as if she has any idea what curry is.

Then I trade Pip our daughter for the phone. "Will you please order?" I ask. Telephones still give me anxiety if I'm not mentally prepared for a conversation with a disembodied voice, and I end up stuttering more often than I like. It annoys the people on the other end, which in turn makes me more anxious, and prone to worse verbal fumbles.

"One of these days, we're gonna have to actually figure out where the nearest grocery store is," Pip says, taking the menu and flipping it over to find the phone number before she dials. "If only because my father can't keep driving to Victoria to give us his leftover root veggies and baby care packages."

"I like his taste in diapers," I say, patting Alis's superhero-patterned bottom. "Besides, we have the Internet now. We can order groceries in."

"You really hate the snow that much, eh?" Pip turns away from me then to talk to the person taking her order, not waiting for my answer. One isn't required, anyway.

Lysse Chipping was a fertile bowl-valley, perfect for growing stone-fruit and large families, famous for its cheese and horses. Our winters lasted maybe three or four months, and the snow never went past my knees. This is my second winter in Pip's world, the first outside of a large metropolis, and already the snow is deeper than I have ever seen in my life. She tells me that while Victoria is temperate, it does still see snow, and that the accumulation will most likely be worse in the next few weeks. I cannot even begin to fathom what that must mean. In Hain, I never went further north than Kingskeep, though my brother has been to the Dark Woods at Erlenmeyer, and out over the pack ice pans in search of the Bear Prince. I now have much greater respect for Bevel Dom, that he managed to keep the headstrong Kintyre from freezing to death up in the Northlands. Winter is harsher, the cold more unrelenting, than I could have ever anticipated.

Luckily, in this world, there exists such a thing as forced air heating, and hot-running water. Otherwise, I would be packing up my family and moving us closer to the equator. In a nation by the name of Japan, they apparently have things called kotatsu, and the moment my home office is complete, I plan to turn my considerable scholar's mind toward recreating these little tables with built-in heaters and blankets for our living room.

While Pip orders our dinner, I take Alis into the living room and set her down amid the torn and crinkled paper she has hoarded. When she caught us tidying it away, she burst into fat, rolling tears, and would not be consoled with anything less than the paper snowing down over her head and drifting around her feet.

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