By Michele Thomas
There's a woman in Petaluma named Marilyn who sent me a Christmas card this year and started up a correspondence. Marilyn is my age and knows a lot about me. She asked me to send her photos of my boys. I sent the photos. I also sent a few columns I've written that I thought she might enjoy, even though Marilyn and I have never met.
There's an old photo that's been enlarged and framed that hangs on the wall at the foot of the stairs in my house. I look at it and smile every time I climb the stairs to the second floor. The photo is of a young woman on the far side of a picket fence that surrounds the lighthouse in San Pedro at the Port of Los Angeles. She is hugging a large wooden sign that says "No Admittance" and she is grinning.
The girl resembles me, or I guess I should say, I look like her, since this is a photo of my mom. It was taken on June 19, 1932 by her best friend Victoria when they were 19 years old.
My mother and Victoria were the closest friends through grammar and high school. After my mother's death in 1989, I found notes that Mom had saved¬ónotes that she and Victoria had passed to each other in class. The notes were written in feminine round slanted penmanship and contained gossip about schoolmates and secrets that schoolgirls would share.
Victoria moved away after high school and she and my mother completely lost track of each other for maybe 35 years. I can't remember exactly. And I can't remember exactly how they found each other again. What I do know is that after my father passed away, my mother often flew to San Francisco to visit Victoria and her husband in San Bruno. For about eight years Mom went to see Victoria regularly.
The two best friends took up where they left off. They took jaunts to Carmel, explored Jack London Square together and shopped compulsively in San Francisco. Mom always brought back treasures from these trips. I have a beautiful cypress tree on a silver chain she brought back from Carmel one year. And another time she gave my boys each a baseball signed by Reggie Jackson, a friend of Victoria's family, who personalized the balls at Victoria's request.
After Mom passed away, I sent a Christmas card to Victoria every year. And occasionally I called her. Once I asked her if she knew anything about my mother trespassing at the lighthouse. Victoria remembered the exact date. It was a summer day and they had walked out to the lighthouse with Victoria's sister who was complaining about the long walk. My mother climbed the fence to have her picture taken holding onto the "No Admittance" sign. If there wasn't a photograph to prove it, I'd never believe my mother capable of such a brazen act! And then there's the picture you see here, taken the same day, of Victoria and Mom taking a swim by the lighthouse. Victoria says it was Mom's idea to pull the straps of their tank tops down to make it look like they were skinny-dipping. My mother?
Victoria's vision is getting worse and she's experiencing some medical problems now. Her daughter Marilyn responded to the Christmas card I sent to Victoria. I know that our mothers both wanted Marilyn and me to meet each other and become friends, but we just never have managed to get together. I think it's time we try. Certainly we have stories to share about our moms. And I'm sure there are some stories we will never know.