Kage Baker disliked change. Intensely.
She could cope with the huge, impersonal changes that happen all the time – nations rising and falling, seasons, weather, fashion, natural disasters. What she utterly loathed were changes to her personal environment. That ranged from a familiar gas station on a specific corner to the loss of her favourite brand of shampoo. (Herbal Essence. The original green stuff.)
She didn’t like to change the furniture around. She wore her clothes until they were unwearable, even as in-house chore clothes; and the real favourites she never threw out at all. In my storage locker, there are two large U-haul boxes full of her ancient t-shirts and Hawaiian shirts. Yeah, I couldn’t bear to toss ’em either. I did work up the courage to get rid of the 12 pair of identical white Chuck Taylor Converse sneakers, but obviously – Kage never had.
When our high school was renovated, years after we graduated, Kage nonetheless refused to look at the new one. She couldn’t bear the sight of our old building torn down, nor the sleek new one that went up in its place. Never mind that the place looked like a model of Gormenghast made of moldy gingerbread; it was a decade before she would consent to drive down the block of Franklin where the new one stood. And even after she managed to drive by it, I’m not sure she ever actually looked at it. I think she always averted her eyes, gazing firmly into the supermarket parking lot across the street.
How did she get away with this? Well, I was usually her driver, and I … sort of understood. Does anyone really like seeing portions of their past vanish? I doubt it. Kage, rather than face the trauma of loss and the pain of coping, just refused to participate in the changes wherever she could get away with it. And it was easier to drive a few blocks out of the way to keep her happy; certainly better than what the alternative would have made her feel. Even I thought her rejection was a bit weird at times – but not weird enough to fight.
Kage wasn’t good at compromise,see, though she tried hard. When Momma died, though, and the Rodney King Riots changed the face of our neighborhood, and our jobs fled in terror to North Carolina – then what Kage decided she could no longer face was Los Angeles itself. It was 503 square miles of That Which Could Not Be Seen. This was what started our Wandering Years, when we lived in trailers, friends’ spare rooms, costume shops, tents, sets, our own truck … ultimately ending up in Pismo Beach, which was paradise. It didn’t take us long to love the nomadic life style, I must admit; but it started because Kage could no longer abide to be in the irrevocably altered streets Los Angeles.
It doesn’t bother me like that. Oh, there are undeniably things I miss that are no longer part of the city where I grew up: The Hot Dog Show on Burbank. Chatterton’s Books. Dutton’s Books. Pickwick’s Books and the See’s Shop on Hollywood Boulevard. Certain specific empty lots along Highland and Cahuenga and Ventura … but I can drive through the changed streets without much of a pang.
Never mind that I have yet to return to Pismo … there are limits, you know?
Anyway – part of Kage’s antipathy to change was satisfied by my making each successive computer look as much like the previous ones as possible. Kage kept some gifs and jpegs for 20 years, always begging me to re-install them as we upgraded the equipment. And I did, too. Some changes crept in, as she got fond of newer graphics or sounds; those just got added to the permanent list. “Make it look like the old system,” was Kage’s direction.
I didn’t have to do that this time. The background on my desktop screen is blue and silver, not red and gold. I didn’t have to figure out how to adapt or change out the OS because the new ones had controls Kage had never used before. Though I may yet – I am not much impressed with Windows 8.1 so far. More on that later …
But the change is made. It took me longer than I expected, and I had to beg the nephew’s help in finally forcing the system to admit there were other networks out there in the aether to which my Internet connection should and could be attached … but most of the wiring and component-slinging and downloading and installing I managed myself. I even cleared up a lot of the clutter under the desk – where I found 3 shoes, 1 sock, assorted jellybeans and licorice bits, plus a couple of pills I can’t identify ….
Reminded me of Kage. Some things don’t change after all, I guess.