Kage Baker liked contrasts – she liked to move quietly through the Christmas riot. Riots were the norm at Mama’s house – up to 3 generations running all around at the same time; cooking, eating, drinking, playing with all the new toys, reading out loud from all the new books, bringing out all the old jokes and quarrels. Kage would sit quietly in a corner with a rum and Coke, cuddling the tired kids and changing out batteries, like a woman letting a tidal wave wash harmlessly around her very toe-tips.
I retreated to her contemplative company whenever I could, but since I could drive, I was always Support Staff. Did we have enough rolls? Had we run out of ice? How about maraschino cherries, did we have enough for Kage’s cocktails and all the Shirley Temples the babies demanded? And where the hell was the mustard? The solution to all of this was to send me out to find a store. I didn’t mind – the relief from noise was always divine – but it came to be axiomatic that I would hit something: a tree. A giant box. A Mercedes Benz. Hit all those and more all over the years, on bun runs for the holiday feast.
My misadventures were added to the holiday legends. There may have been some exaggeration involved – the Christmas tree on the curb that I hit, for example, was not actually in flames at the time. I’d have seen it it, if it had been …
Last year’s Christmas Day – I have no memories. Nada, zip, el zilcho. I know where I was, I know who I was with; but I cannot remember a damned thing about the day. I have no idea what we ate for breakfast or dinner, though I am pretty sure I made sure Kage ate something. Maybe we went out … though I rather doubt it, as the 14 steps to our front door were beginning to assume their demonic aspect.
I think Kage spent the day watching The Hogfather and episodes of Jeeves. She loved P.G. Wodehouse. I read most of the Jeeves and Wooster stories to her the last month or two; they never lost the ability to make her laugh – for which mercy, Lord God of Authors, be pleased to add a star or two to Mr. Wodehouse’s heavenly crown!
I think some people called. Lots of people sent emails, according to the dates in my files. The weather may have been rather fine. I don’t really know. I have no clear or seperate memories between the moment in the ER when they told us about the tumor in Kage’s cerebellum, and the moment two days later when I delivered her to the hospital for emergency surgery.
I can only presume Christmas day was quiet, and that I spent it as I spent most of the last two months – sitting by Kage’s bed, holding her hand, holding a glass with a green bendy straw up to her lips. Giggling at Wooster and Jeeves, admiring the utter coolness of Sir Terry Pratchett’s Death – he was her favourite character. She always fancied tall lean men.
But I can’t pin a particular picture to a particular day. There was just one endless day, where I sat on the floor by the fold out couch and we talked and read and watched telly. Harry the parrot prowled round on the covers and nibbled on feet and stole Kage’s bendy straws. When one of us got tired – which happened like tsunamis, Bang! - we’d fall asleep, and I’d wake up across the foot of the bed like a hound, an endless loop of Berty Wooster or Mr. Teatime (pronounced “Te-AH-ti-me”) playing on the DVD.
It was the quietest Christmas day ever. Certainly quieter than today, for which alteration I am very grateful. Ray is woking on D & D stats from his new Players Handbook; Mike is building a model and making notes aloud on how he will cannibalize the parts for self-designed starships. A Christmas Story is playing for freaking ever on the telly, marking time until the Dr.Who Christmas Special comes on. Kimberly is chopping things into other things. One cat is snoring on my bed, while the other amuses herself by running out the back door and then crying to let in the front – over and over. Harry is singing very, very softly as he falls asleep, head turned round backwards to watch the TV between his own shoulder blades. The Corgi is also singing, lying under his pillow and warbling tenderly to the rawhide chew held clutched between his paws.
Very weird. Very peaceful. Very alive.
Merry Christmas, everyone.