Kage Baker was fond of the nursery rhyme describing the attributes of children born on specific days of the week. She had cause to be – she was born on a Tuesday, which is one of the favourable ones. And she was full of grace. She was fair of face, too, in many meanings of the word “fair”. For instance, she could not produce melanin for love nor money, save in an astonishing crop of freckles.
When Kage lamented what she considered her personal paucity of good looks (she sometimes described herself as having the face of an Iriquois war mask and a figure like a tarp over a broken chair) I always felt compelled to point this out. Was she merely pretty? No. Was hers a vibrant, blazingly alive face? Yes. Cheekbones to die for, too, and an actual jaw and chin. (I apparently have no facial bones at all, and am slowly aging into an apple doll.) And it’s hard to regret skin like porcelain (between the freckles) and red hair to one’s hips. She had a Gibson Girl figure when we were young, too, with a waist like a bottle of her beloved Coco-Cola; a shape she regained in her final year, to her unabashed glee.
I, on the other hand, was born on Wednesday. The rhyme predicts that Wednesday’s child is full of woe. In self defense, I have chosen to believe that this doesn’t mean I will encounter lots of woe, but that I will suffer from depression. To believe the other – that I am destined to have actual woe, rather than just sometimes be in a rotten mood – is to court even more woe, in my opinion. Always look for the silver lining, says I. And when I am not recovering from emotional pole-axings, I am actually a pretty optimistic person.
For reasons I have never figured out, but suspect are due to leap years, Kage and I were born on different days but usually had our subsequent birthdays fall on the same day of the week. (This year, it’s a Friday.) Which is weird; someone more up on calendar shenanigans or better at math than I am can probably explain this. All I know is, it was handy for keeping track. We were born a year and 20 days apart – for 3 weeks a year, Kage was therefore two technical years my senior, over which I crowed a lot. I got my comeuppance later, since my sister Kimberly is a year and 20 days younger than I am, and does the same thing to me … the whole older/younger sister age dynamic is very competitive, and doesn’t get any easier as the participants age, I’ll tell you.
This year, of course, Kage and I catch up: 58 was as old as she got, and it’s the age at which I’ll lose my spurious comparative youth. From now on, I’ll be journeying alone into advancing cronehood. Oddly enough, that doesn’t bother me. It gives me a nice image to keep of Kage as the one in my mirror gets scarier and scarier – less and less do I recognize that old bat whose face I inexplicably wash every morning.
But Kage seemed to grow actually younger the last year of her life, and it’s a comfort to remember her that way. She lost weight, of course. And though the radiation treatments did not have time to take her hair (man, she was glad of that!) it did have to be cropped short for her brain surgery – and since she’d worn it short through high school, she looked a lot like her 18-year old self at the end. She never took off the green jade ring she’d worn since her 20’s, and only removed her gold hoop earrings (she never wore anything else) at the very last minute …
It was the strangest feeling, when I closed her eyes that last night, to look at her and see the same young woman who told stories and Tarot card fortunes in the cafeteria at good old Immaculate Heart High School. Especially with my own age-spotted hand shutting her black eyes.
Man, Time plays some tricks on us. Especially with someone like Kage helping it along.