Note: a version of this column was first published Aug. 18, 2007.
In the fall of 1992 my youngest son Dana was given a class writing assignment. He carefully copied a poem in the cursive penmanship of a 9-year-old. After it was graded and returned to him, Dana tacked the poem to the wall next to his bed.
When I was in first grade in 1956 my best friends were twins. Janet, Roseann and I stayed close friends through grammar and high school. We saw the Beatles together. I smoked my first cigarette and drank my first Scotch with Janet and Roseann.
After we graduated, I went to San Francisco and the twins became USC Trojans (at the same time O.J. Simpson was running the football there). Janet and Roseann lived in a sorority while I moved into an apartment across from Golden Gate Park. We saw each other less and less. I attended their storybook weddings and they sent beautiful gifts when my twins were born.
Through all the years that passed, I sent Janet and Roseann each a birthday card every March. In 1992, when we were 42 years old, Roseann called to thank me for remembering her birthday for so many years. We reminisced about our childhood and I spontaneously invited her to visit and meet my family in Grants Pass. To my surprise, she came for a weekend. When she returned home she sent a thank-you note inviting us to her family’s condo on Catalina Island.
I’d been to Catalina many times. I’d gone there for school outings, with girlfriends on day trips and, in my senior year, with Janet and Roseann on Labor Day weekend (the equivalent of a Cancun spring break now).
My mother remembered another Catalina. Big bands, ballroom dancing and gambling at the landmark casino made it a glamorous getaway when she was a newlywed in 1934. Like my mother, I had sailed aboard the steamer S.S. Catalina, four hours each way. But, in August 1992 with my family as Roseann’s guests, we boarded the Catalina Express for a ride to Avalon that took less than two hours.
Carved into a steep hillside, cream-colored villas with red tile roofs cascaded down to turquoise water below. Our terra cotta patio was perched over the ocean. The sound of waves lapping at the shore below lulled us to sleep. At Hamilton Cove we swam, played tennis and miniature golf, and drove a golf cart to town for shopping, dining and our favorite frozen bananas.
That summer Roseann and I renewed our friendship. We see each other at least once a year now. When Dana got married in July 2006, Roseann came to the wedding and gave the newlyweds keys to the Catalina condo for their honeymoon.
Catalina Island brought old friends together and provided a magical place for my family to make memories. Here are the words to the poem Dana copied after he returned from his first trip there and kept near his bed for many years:
If once you have slept on an island
You’ll never be quite the same;
You may look as you looked the day before
And go by the same old name …
… Oh! you won’t know why and you can’t say how
Such a change upon you came,
But once you have slept on an island,
You’ll never be quite the same
— Rachel Field, author