Michele Thomas

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 by his bed.

In first grade, in 1956, my best friends were twins, Janet and Roseann. We were good friends through grammar and high school. We saw the Beatles together. I smoked my first cigarette, drank my first Scotch, cruised in my parents' carall with Janet and Roseann.

After graduation, 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 joined a sorority. Gradually we saw less of each other. I attended their weddings and they sent my newborn twin boys handsome outfits.

Every March, I sent Janet and Roseann birthday cards. In 1992, when we were 42, Roseann called to thank me for the card and for remembering her birthday for so many years. I invited her to Grants Pass, Ore., to meet my family. She came for a weekend that spring. When she returned home, she sent a note thanking me and inviting us to her family's condo on Catalina Island.

I had been to Catalina many times. I'd gone there on school outings, with girlfriends for day trips and, in senior year, with Janet and Roseann one Labor Day weekend (the equivalent of Cancun at spring break now).

My mother remembered another Catalina. Big bands, ballroom dancing and gambling at the casino made it a glamorous getaway when she was newly married. Like my mother, I had sailed aboard the steamer S.S. Catalina, four hours each way. But, in August 1992, accepting Roseann's invitation, we boarded the Catalina Express for a ride that lasted less than two hours.

Carved into a hillside, cream-colored villas with red tile roofs cascaded down to turquoise water below. Our terra cotta patio overlooked the ocean. We ate fresh seafood al fresco on balmy moonlit nights. The gentle sound of waves lapping at the shore lulled us to sleep. At Hamilton Cove we swam, played tennis and miniature golf, and drove a golf cart to town for frozen bananas. We became tan, tranquil and much closer to each other.

That summer Roseann and I became good friends again. We see each other at least once a year now, and talk on the phone often. Last July, at Dana's wedding, Roseann gave him keys to the condo so he and Holly could honeymoon there.

Catalina Island brought old friends together and provided a magical place for me and my sons to make indelible memories. When I miss them, or those times together, which happens on a day like today, I recite the words from the poem Dana kept near his bed:

andquot;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.andquot;

Rachel Field, author

Reach Michele Thomas, The Daily Triplicate's publisher, at, 464-2141, or stop by 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.