Kage Baker both loved and distrusted December. It’s Christmas, it’s Dickens Fair, it’s coloured lights and favourite food and drink, it’s baking and roasting and tinsel and spiced wine and ribbons!
But it’s also when most of the people she and I loved and lost actually died. And she knew it was very hard on me, and she was always looking at me slantwise, asking worriedly, “Are you okay? What are you thinking?” She was really concerned that I would slip into the Slough of Despond, and was always urging me to brace up!
It’s hard to do that. My favourite grandparent, my Mother and Father, a child, some especially dear friends … I hate December for its grave markers. I try not to make a point of remembering them, but how do you forget dates like that? You can’t stop being aware of them, because those gaps make up part of the shape of your soul – there’s no getting over it, you know? You learn to soldier on, but it’s hard. And I still hate December.
So I don’t think of it as December. It’s Midwinter, it’s Solstice, it’s Fairs and Yule and parties, it’s the sweet cold dark and the brightest stars and grace of naked trees against a steel blue sky. It’s sunsets like metallic fire, and dawns like burning gold and silver glass, and a moon that makes the entire world a symphony of frozen blue.
Kage promised she would not die in December herself; and she kept that promise. I suspect it took some adamantine self-control not to give in to the desire to snuggle into her warm bed and sleep until the next world dawned around her – but she did it. She managed not only December, through brain surgery and torrential rains and radiation therapy and chemo and the cropping of her long red hair – but also most of January, when she actually rallied for a brief while.
That let her say goodbye to lots more folks. It let her make plans for a very complete and well-realized departure, and that make her happier. Which is good, because none of it worked and she died after a mere week at home, where she had anticipated forting up for a final stand on the edge of life. But I don’t think she knew it would happen so quickly If she did, she never let me know, which was a great tenderness to what remained of my sanity at that point.
My dear Jason knew my particular fetish – or is it an anti-fetish? – and also promised not to kick the bucket in December. He kept his promise, too, heading into the West just before the end of November. He was always a gentleman. I will remember him with the others, though; now he anchors one end of my list of loss, just as Kage anchors the other.
Today is December 1st. It’s gotten actually cold in Los Angeles, mirabile dictu! My November writing binge on NaNoWriMo foundered this year, on assorted illnesses, duties, accidents and Jason’s death: but that just happens sometimes. I’ll keep writing. I’m actually writing more on this blog than in some time, so the energy is rolling, Dear Readers, it’s really rolling along.
And there is Dickens Fair, which is always a sensory-overload delight. Tomorrow I drive up again, along the ever-deepening chill and silence of I-5, headed for that mother load of tinsel and faeries and fake snow and gilded gingerbread and spiced hippocras and wet feet and warm hugs in the Cow Palace. For two days I will revel and rejoice – as much as a stiff old lady like me can manage, anyway – and firmly believe for several bright hours that there is Good Will On Earth To All Men.
My ghosts are all there, of course. Especially Kage … but their company is bright and welcome in the lamplight of my Parlour, and I will lift each glass of beer and cup of tea to them in unending love. Each of them has built a part of that edifice of light we erect in the dark heart of Winter, to shelter our lonely souls.
They won’t ride beside me until I am back on the black, black road again. And then, no matter how chill the hand on my shoulder, I will rejoice at the company. All my loves can find me in that winter dark.