Kage Baker, as has been made pretty plain, loved Dickens Fair. It wasn’t just that, as an older lady, she appreciated the joys of flush toilets, chairs to sit on in stead of hay bales, an indoor venue instead of the vagaries of outdoors Marin County (though all of those pertained). It was more a case of simply being in that portion of the population for whom Victoriana is the perfect manifestation of Christmas.
Just after the introduction of Christmas trees and cards; when bells and red velvet and ghost stories and roast turkeys and a Father Christmas with more than just a bit of Captain Morgan twinkling in his eye was the standard: that’s what she loved. Before commercialism got too carried away with itself, before department stores and soft drink purveyors started inventing secular saints; before the damned dancing reindeer and OCD elves. When the darkness under the oaks trees yielded the home-bound party with venison and Yule logs and winter hymns in the snow, though you knew the trees could just as well have eaten them all. When there still a hint of the oldest Yuletide truths, back when it was all about blood on the snow …
Kage loved the lights and warmth and plenitude of Christmas because the contrast with the cold dark is never so sharp anytime else. You’re really grateful for a mid-winter feast when it doesn’t have to include the seed corn or the elderly.
Dickens Fair was all Kage’s focus on Christmas, the last 10 years of her life. It’s a glorious extravaganza, and we threw ourselves into it with insane dedication. The endorphines of exhaustion always enhanced the eggnog and roast beef for us. It’s a mania, a celebration at that peak of intensity that usually sends small children into fits just before the presents are opened – but as adults, it went on for us for days. We were raving with joy by the time the Sun slipped over the Solstice; by the Yuletide itself, we were in an altered state.
You get to crave that kind of high, you know?
And tomorrow, it starts again. First weekend of rehearsals – held, by necessity and peculiar tradition, in a local, weekend-empty school. Our hordes of evolving Victorians will come to pose and recite amid the half-sized desks and construction paper turkeys: hoop shirts filling a bathroom meant for a dozen little girls with just two wide-load matrons; smudgy orphans with battered top hats lounging criminally by the swings; pallid widows in fingerless gloves clutching styrofoam cups of Swiss Miss as they browse the false-hair booth.
We transmute the world just walking through it.
Alas, I will not be there. Not yet. My lamp of health seems to have spent its terminal lumens in the desperate last year of Kage’s life – since then, it’s been desperately trying to catch up with itself through crisis after crisis. I’m pretty damned sick of this nonsense, too, as I seem to escape each unusual fate only to fall straight into another one. This year, it’s bacteria even I have never heard of – although it has been cleverly suggested by a fellow word-smith (thank you, Maggie!) that the Klebsiella that struck me down is actually one of Cinderella’s ugly stepsisters … and once I’ve put paid to that, I’ve still got the fascinating question to solve, of what is living in my uterus that isn’t related to me?
The damned raccoons would not surprise me, at this point.
In the meantime, though, I have to at least regain some strength: so this week, I direct from a distance. The intrepid and flawless Neassa will see my group through its initial classes and paperworks. I will return next week, happily speeding up I-5 in the autumn chill with a nephew, a parrot, a piano stool and half the house linens. And all the lamps Kage so loved, to light up the winter properly for Extreme Christmas.
I am pantingly, pantingly eager to go.