Kage Baker usually spent New Year’s Eve sick.
This was because she tended to catch colds during Dickens Fair, which matured into stately bronchitis by the time the New Year rolled around. Luckily, we seldom went anywhere at New Year’s – our long-standing celebration was steaks and potato latkes at home, followed by a Twilight Zone marathon. Kage would soothe her cold with wine coolers or hot toddies, until it was the magic moment – then she’d risk her life and both lungs by standing on the front porch to pop the cork on our champagne, and listen to the neighbors shoot off armament …
With small arms fire and the signal cannon from up the hill sounding around us, we’d toast one another and make our annual resolution: to survive.When the gunfire died down, we’d go down to the beach and Kage would wade into the winter waves and vow her life to the muses and the gods of writing. And then we’d go home and finish the champagne.
Why she never died of exposure, I have no idea. But that midnight bath in the cold salt sea actually seemed to shock her system into normalcy; and her colds vanished in a day or two past the New Year.
Her very last year, Kage was in hospital for the New Year. I sneaked in real candles and real champagne, and at midnight we made our usual vow and toasted one another. She was recovering from brain surgery at that moment, but she truly meant her promise to survive … as she commented three weeks later, on her death bed, she had survived. She had just never specified how long it would last.
She issued dreadful threats to me if I should fail to make that resolution, or to keep it. So tonight I will pledge, for the third year post-Kage, to SURVIVE. And to do so to some profit, too – today Nell Gwynne: On Land and At Sea becomes theoretically available for order on line. Both our names are on the cover; there are some reviews already, and they are favourable. Possibly due to the holidays, Amazon is a little confused about whether or not it’s actually shippable – I suspect it won’t be until Wednesday the 3rd, in actuality.
Not even my author’s copies have arrived. But they will soon. And I will have survived, and succeeded in the first task Kage left me.
In the meantime, I’ve been asleep most of the day, trying to subdue the cold I now have. Friday I went North for the final act of Dickens Fair – renting a truck on Saturday, and packing the furniture and props back to storage in the hospitable barn of one of my people’s mothers. All my dear stalwarts arrived to pack and carry; nephew Michael even drove up with me to do a manly job of work with the loading, and keep me awake on the road, as well.
The next generation – Mike and all the alarmingly tall Rettinkids – is slowly taking over the heavy lifting. And the generation after them, Sasha and Connor and the yet-unknown sleeping in one of our helper’s belly, is getting in practice by running around crazily every chance they get. It’s how the enormous, competent children who assisted us in the job Saturday first learned to do it …
I drove the truck. I’m not much use for carrying and toting, but by God! I can still drive a rental truck!
Then Michael and I drove home Saturday night. It was a glorious run through the dark of I-5, with mysterious lights twinkling in all the mutable and strange darkenesses … the moon rose golden in the East, and the stars were dangerously bright: nascent novae out there in the Galactic Empire. We could see moonlight glinting on the snow at the tops of the Tehachapis as we drove through the Grapevine; it was only the gusty winds that prevented the road from icing over, and we were damned grateful for it!
Tonight is leftover prime rib and Yorkshire pudding; tomorrow is baked ham and Hoppin’ John and collard greens, with many other tasty side dishes. The Rose Parade. Too much football. More cocooning and napping and wondering why the weather only gets this clear and lovely in the winter when 6 million people are watching the Rose Parade on the telly …
And I’ll write a bit, and read a bit. And survive. I pray that all of you do the same, Dear Readers, and that your coming years are full of joy and wonder. Mine is starting off better than in some time, so I have hopes that Hope itself will be returning to us all.
Happy New Year, everyone.