Kage Baker was one of the world’s leading proponents of birthday celebrations.
I don’t know who keeps track of these things – some sort of cosmic clerk somewhere must, I hope. If there is a top 10 list (and I devoutly hope there is) she must be on it.
It was not a matter of money spent – largely because for most of her life, Kage didn’t have enough money to stage extravaganzas. She would have liked to, as she felt firmly that excess was the heart of every celebration. In the absence of monetary ability, she just saw to it that every birthday she had a hand in was excessive in every other degree she could manage.
Birthdays began on the night before the calendrical date, with a lot of broadly signalled sneaking and hiding things.; they continued for at least three days on the other side. Errands with loud announcements and no explanations were the norm, along with much gloating. By sunset of the day before, presents came out for display. Not to be touched by the celebrant, you understand: no testing of the translucency of wrapping papers, or heft of boxes was allowed. All you could do was circle the goodies like a lioness outside a boma, moaning desperately.
She always had a surprise set for whatever hour the birthday celebrant woke, too. Some of them were freaking memorable. A paper bag full of cold plums, and tickets to the Catalina ferry boat that had to be redeemed within three hours – she swept me, Kimberly and Jenny off on that one. My thirtieth birthday we spent in Pismo, before we dwelt there permanently: I woke up from the previous night’s excesses not even hungover yet, still drunk – to be greeted by Kage, fiendishly wide awake and singing the special Faire Happy Birthday song (which is profane in cheerful extreme), holding a chocolate eclair with a mushroom shaped candle flaming in it. One of the weirder sights of my entire life, that.
My 50th birthday party was held at Faire rehearsals. No one person could have hidden the proceedings from me – we were deep in classes and auditions – but Kage was the one who kept me away from Ground Zero while our Guild put together a surprise picnic. It was amazing. Man, can actors eat! But it does take care of the leftovers.
Tomorrow is my birthday. I shall be 60, which is frankly impossible and surely the result of some time-slip somewhere. Kimberly has been sneaking around on clandestine errands all day (Kage’s habits did not evolve in a vacuum, you see) and is even now vanished somewhere with my stalwart nephew on yet more mysterious ends. Harry the parrot must be in on the plot, too, because he is singing insanely to me – entire reiterations of God Save the Queen in half a dozen different keys and voices. (My favourite is the deep gravelly Monster Voice.) And the Corgi doesn’t want me to go anywhere in the house; Dylan keeps herding me firmly back to my desk.
I figure that I am now living officially in the future. I must be, since it is completely outside reason that I could be almost 60 years old; the signs are everywhere. I’ve been exchanging emails with a dear friend who is presently racing across Japan in a supersonic train – we’re communicating through some sort of taken-for-granted time dilation. We’re been doing laundry all day in a washing machine that has more computing power than the Apollo Moon Mission. I’ve got 5 pieces of platinum arranged decoratively around my heart. And I have published a book and am about to publish a story.
This is the future, all right. Not the one I expected, nor even one I wanted – but there is no doubt that life is running ahead for me. With creaky knees, short of breath and inclined to chug perilously on the uphill bits: but I am for damned sure going on.
I hope I’m not woken tomorrow morning by a flaming mushroom – you can only survive something like that in your youth – but whatever it is, I will be happy and thankful.
Now I’m going to do find out why Harry is meowing and crooning “Oh, my sweet baboo!” Maybe he’s recruiting the cats …