Kage Baker liked quiet Thanksgivings at home. Or said she did. How she decided this I have never figured out, because she never had one in her life.
She was the eldest of a huge brood of children – which included several strays and foster kids – and most of her siblings promptly bred. All holidays were held, by official fiat and ancient custom, at Mama’s while that wonderful lady lived, which meant that the crowd just got bigger every year. It reached the point where a buffet was the only answer in the 1980’s, and people ate perched everywhere in the house. It was wonderful.
Sometimes we had small private Thanksgivings at our own house. But those happened the day before or after the official holiday. They were annexes, not the primal flash-mob. But, you know, you simply cannot have too much stuffing or pies around the place, and not having to share them with The Boys at Mama’s meant we actually got some.
The last 10 years, we have worked the Great Dickens Christmas Fair in San Francisco. It always opens on the Friday after Thanksgiving, for a three-day holiday extravaganza. For several years, this meant we drove up on Thursday night after the feast, but it only took a couple of years of mall traffic in Gilroy to show how insane that was. We tried arriving late on Opening Day, but that’s not optimum.
We finally started driving up on Wednesday, and having Thanksgiving with a friend’s also fabulous and open-hearted mother. More flash-mob! On time for Opening! No traffic! And the wonderful company of Steve and Carol Skold, who are probably the most generous people now in captivity. (We have lots of Carol’s furniture and rugs in the Green Man Parlour. Plus two of her daughters, 3 of her grandchildren and an endless supply of gingersnaps.)
I will be driving up to the Skolds happy riot tomorrow morning, nephew and parrot in tow. (They invited the parrot! You have no idea what nobility this represents …) But since I now live in Los Angeles with my insanely patient sister Kimberly, we will also have a Thanksgiving dinner tonight. Pies are perfuming the house even now and the turkey is about to go in. It will be full-on Thanksgiving for two days, which is a wonderful prospect for a wanderer like me … and we are already planning the leftovers, too. (That’s where Kimberly and I will have our parsnips and rutabagas on the side, since her husband and son are heathens and won’t eat them.) I can even eat pumpkin scones on the road tomorrow. And I will.
So today I am cooking. And packing. Tomorrow I will drive, and hopefully arrive in time to help set the table at the Skold’s. I will do my very best to overdose on pie and turkey. And then I will embark on 4 weeks of Extreme Christmas at the Cow Palace.
I roasted several small beef roasts for luncheons last night, and the way-back of my Cruiser is full of cookies and candy. I have found all my bloomers and chemises and stockings and hair pins and jewels and gloves and caps … my actual gown is only the outer layer, the rind of the ornate pudding I play at Dickens, and is supported by enough ancillary clothing for three modern women. I think I even remembered to pack some night clothes and clean T-shirts …
And in the 30 minutes breaks where nothing is coming out or going in to the oven, I can write. Which is what Kage did on these busy, crazy, crowded, noisy, happy holiday weekends – she cooked, she packed, she chased babies and defended pies and ran to the store to get whatever had been forgotten (this year’s list is, so far, plastic wrap and mushroom soup): but mostly she wrote.
And so will I.
Tomorrow: Five hundred miles on the road and it’s Christmas Eve!