Kage Baker was never one for napping. Momma had lots of weary stories about that … for her part, Kage had lots of stories about the excruciating boredom of lying awake in cribs and youth beds, staring at the ceiling. She claimed to remember the particularly bland pastel pink and blue seals with balls that adorned her crib bumpers: Kage complained about those damned seals for her entire life. Momma certainly believed her, and would roll her blue eyes in despairing memory. But once Kage was ambulatory, she’d just get up and be about her own business with remarkably little fuss – unless you were counting on her to be asleep all afternoon.
I believed Kage. I didn’t nap, either, not once I could walk and talk and sneak around. My usual MO was just to get up and play on the floor quietly when I was supposed to be asleep; but I went wandering frequently enough to appall parents and guardians. I remember letting Kimberly out of her crib when she was about 10 months old. It was a tremendously exciting stunt, because while I had figured out how the catches worked at the sides of the crib, I wasn’t strong enough to hold it up, so there was an amazing crash.
Kage was much quieter than I, and got away with without detection much more often. Of course, she also slept more at night – and when she couldn’t sleep, nonetheless stayed quietly in bed, watching the late night shows on the telly (the electronic nanny in the bedroom, always) melt slowly into the Star-Spangled Banner and the iconic test patterns. She’d occasionally holler for room service: chocolate milk. It never failed to put her to sleep, and in fact still worked 50-odd years later when she was fighting exhaustion and cancer together …
Me, I just didn’t sleep much at any time, not for the first 56 years of my life. Nor did I mind – I could recharge on one night’s sleep in 3 or 4, and my batteries ran for days. Oh, the splendid days (and nights) of youth! I didn’t appreciate the fact that I was practically a 24/7 business, or how much time being asleep was eventually going to waste!
As I sit here writing, I have been asleep for about 20 of the last 24 hours. Yestreday was just as bad – slept most of the day, got up and did a few life-sustaining chores; then slept most of the night. This is my new reaction to extreme heat, evidently: estivation. How primally mammalian of me. And how freaking annoying. I’ll be up until 2 AM again, I have no doubt – watching late night science and nature shows with my physicist brother-in-law. He surfs the Net while doing so; I read on my Kindle. And we listen to Morgan Freeman or some NASA engineer discuss quantum mechanics and planetary dynamics; or watch some weirdly fascinating reality adventure like River Monsters.
Kage rarely joined me in the white nights of our adulthood – she slept through the nights by then. It was only in the last year of her life that her own sleep patterns got wonky – then she began sleeping every 3 or 4 hours round the clock, un-responsive to the patterns of the sun and stars. When she was asleep, I read. When she was awake, I read to her and we watched TV.
In her case it was old movies, silents if we could find them. No nature shows, because Kage couldn’t stand the violence – “They always feed some poor capybara to the piranhas”, she objected. Old cartoons. New cartoons. Botany and gardening shows – what she gleefully called “plant porn”, pretending to swoon at graphic slow motion pollination clips … and The Wrong Box, over and over and over. Kage regarded cable TV as a gift straight from God, to ease her passage from the world. I can’t disagree, either.
But first and always when she woke up: she would dictate stories to me. Bits and pieces, plot lines; revisions to the works then in progress and wild new ideas that had come to her in her sleeps. That’s most of the lode I am mining now: Kage’s dreams in her last year, sleepily, urgently recounted to me while I coaxed her to drink a chocolate egg cream and checked the TV schedule for 1940’s cartoons.
And they’re what I think of when I wake up now, rising groggily from my heat-inspired naps: those stories. It’s like she’s still awake, even while the soft oppressive heat mashes me into a sweaty paste on my bed. Or maybe just dreaming a lot more loudly than I do, in the daytime hours that were always her proper time. I may be snoring in a tropical depression (ha ha ha) but Kage is awake and whispering in my ear.
That seems pretty likely to me.