Kage Baker was born to George Henry Baker and Katherine Carmichael, the first of their 6 children. She was formally named Mary Kate Genevieve Baker.
She was followed by Mary Anne Jeffreys Baker; Anthony Jude Thaddeus Baker; George Henry Baker 2nd; James Joseph McCarthy Baker; and finally by Genevieve Emily Baker.
The discerning Reader will notice a few things implied in this list. 1) Kage didn’t care for the name on her birth certificate. 2) Her family, like the antique Romans, used the same names over and over. 3) There were a lot of kids in the family, including two Genevieves. And 4) I – Kathleen Marie Gabriel Bartholomew – don’t show up anywhere in that lineup.
Technically, I’m a foster child (at best). George and Katherine Baker were wonderful, generous, warm people and one of their virtues was their habit of taking in strays. At one point, I recall that every child in the family had a friend living with them most of the time. Mrs. Baker used to say that she didn’t really like children: she just liked her own – but she extended that to claim many kids who would otherwise have been lost over the years.
I was one of them. Mrs. Baker more or less raised me from early adolescence; when I left home, having been emphatically dismissed by my own mother, it was to the Baker family that I fled. When Kage left home a year later, she moved in with me. For 40-odd years, Kage and I introduced ourselves to others as sisters. Because we were.
I was called “Auntie”. I was invited to the holiday meals. I cooked and cleaned and painted and gardened and borrowed the car and wasted time and did homework and snuck out to meet boys. I cared for both George and Katherine in their final illnesses; I spoke at Katherine’s eulogy. During that last sickness, Katherine told me to take care of Kage – when we compared notes, we found she had told Kage to take care of me. I guess that “only one working brain between ’em” thing was obvious to Katherine …
So, anyway, that’s the way things were. Kage left me her notes and her writing and her request to keep her name and work alive. I’ve tried to do that.
Last week, the spouse of one of Kage’s blood siblings posted a statement on a review site, to the effect that I was not Kage Baker’s sister. The statement scolded literary people for not checking their facts. It noted that I made frequent references to this on my blog. It stated this deceit was an annoyance that could no longer be tolerated.
I didn’t know anyone felt like this. I was … taken aback, especially when I was informed of this by the administrator of the review site – not by any of the Bakers whom I have known for decades of my life (and theirs). I still haven’t been contacted, although I’ve requested it. I’m ashamed, embarrassed, in pain, and confused. Cruelest of all, the writing has been shot and left in a ditch for dead. It feels like Kage dying all over again – except that this time, someone wants to take even her memory away from me.
Well, that can’t be done. My neurons and probably portions of my DNA were permanently altered by the burning radiation of Kage’s life. Gamma rays don’t wash off.
But, in respect and courtesy, I need to correct at least the perception that I have been trying to lie or cheat or otherwise defraud the public. I hope I’ve done so here. I want to get back to my work now.
Was Kage Baker my blood relative, my genetic sibling? No. Was she my sister? Oh, yes – she was. And she said so.