Kage Baker was not a fluffy sort of person. She was a romantic, in a stern way, and a traditionalist; but the addition of ribbons and bells and cute animals to a holiday never delighted her much. Unless it was a holiday about ribbons and bells and cute animals – which usually restricted the field to the Blessing of the Animals. and Easter for the very young. Then, it was alright. For other people.
But not so much for Kage. The closest she ever got to warm fuzzies was a spastic wind-up bunny with inexplicable red eyes, whom she named General Woundwort.*She loved him dearly.
But her preference for dignity over cuteness was why she despised my habit of referring to Christmas Eve Eve. She thought I was indulging in sticky fairy tale cutity. What I was really doing was stretching out the holiday anticipation by an extra day.Which is my story, and I’m sticking to it … plus, I always start losing track of the days when we get this deep into December. I spent all this morning, for instance, thinking it was December 24th, and having pointless panic attacks every time I remembered I hadn’t wrapped any presents yet.
My family has been very patient about correcting me each time I frantically start up, asking if we have enough paper, or creamed spinach, or time to bake the fruitcake. How long will the prime rib need to roast? We need to reset the outside lights timer so they burn all night long! Where are our stockings?
I’ve had worse Christmas Eves, though.
Kage’s last Christmas Eve Eve, she developed a ghastly headache. By Christmas Eve, she was nearly blind from the pain; then I got a bellyache, and started throwing up uncontrollably. We ended up on the bathroom floor, planning how on earth we were going to get to the phone to dial 911 – which we obviously needed. We crawled into the living room like two drunken crabs, leaning on one another and giggling madly.
Several hours, one MRI and a slew of lab tests later, our giggling stopped. I turned out to just have some monster gastroenteritis. Kage, though … her cancer had returned as a brain tumour, and she needed surgery ASAP. Though even that was not expected to help much. We sat there in the ER, staring at one another. Kage said, “Happy fucking Christmas, huh?”
And then we started laughing hysterically again.
But I am comfortable enough with all this now to wish all of you, Dear Readers, a Merry Christmas Eve Eve. Doubtless, many of you are also occasionally confused by the rush to the holiday, and now you have a greeting for that day when you can’t find your stocking stuffers because you put them in a safe place a month ago. Or remember exactly what the heck Auntie Lisle put in her dressing, or which cousin cannot abide nuts in fudge, or how to shut up your brother-in-law before he triggers anyone else at the dinner table with screwball politics.
Christmas Day, for all the rush and the deadlines, and the madness of feeding festive foods to 27 people in a house with 18 chairs – is nonetheless inevitable: we’ve made the it to The Day, and it will all unfold automatically. It may be insane, but it’s self-propelled. But Christmas Eve is fraught with anxieties and last-minute hysteria. So Christmas Eve Eve deserves a special salutation and attention, because it gives us that extra day to accomplish, complete – and yes, lose our minds just a little more.
Kage and I always ended up laughing hysterically at some point while getting ready, even in years where nothing went famously wrong, like a brain tumour (or the toilet bowl being shattered by a falling conch shell: a different tale altogether.) And Kimberly and I traditionally have laughing fits while trying to coordinate everything that has to somehow be ushered in and out of a single oven. Ah, demented laughter in the oxygen-and-sugar rich air of a hot kitchen! There’s nothing like it. Insanity can be fun, when shared with the proper people.
Tomorrow, things get real. Merry Christmas Eve Eve, Dear Readers.
- the rabbit villain from Watership Down.