Greeting from Catalina Island this photo was taking this morning in the City of Avalon. There will be much to tell about Catalina I was conceived here along with my two brothers. This is a story about how my parents met on the island. Right now I’m interviewing my mom about how she moved here when she 19 years old.
By Stacy Poulos 1996
One of my favorite memorable childhood adventures was when I was 12 years old. It was a life-changing year for me. My mom and I went to Catalina Island for the summer. It wasn’t the first time I had been there. I was actually conceived there, conceived in love. My mom met my very handsome dad and fell in love. They both lived on the island for a few years but chose to live and raise their children on the mainland. Whether or not the marriage lasted through my first birthday, I was still conceived in love, conceived in the American dream of white picket fences and having a dream life with children. I consider Catalina my birthplace because of it, even though I popped out of my mother’s womb on another island 400 miles away up North in Alameda. Catalina is where my seed was planted. It is where my heart lies.
I had been to Catalina many times since the age of twelve. It has always been a faint memory to me where fish really did fly. And the first time I flew in an airplane and it landed on the water, I thought that was normal. Even though the memories of my biological dad were just visits because they divorced when I was one year old. I cherished every picture of my parents together in Catalina. I was blessed by their divorced and by my mom marrying my step dad, who was the calm in my life. Not that my biological dad was a bad man, he just never wanted to grow up and that is still true today. My mom liked to say he was a beach comber. That was OK too because we were blessed with my step dad who took the torch when I was five and raised us as though we were his own. We were lucky.
When I think about it, it was really important to go to Catalina alone with my mom, to bond with her without competing with my two brothers. I felt a sense of maturity and specialness. There is no doubt my mom favors her first born, which isn’t me. Me and my younger brother laugh about it sometimes. But 1976 was my year. My brothers and step dad were scheduled to come when we found a place to stay for all of us. In the meantime me and my mom stayed at the Glenmore Hotel. I remember it as if it was yesterday. At night before we would go to sleep in the tiny bedroom with the shared bathroom down the hall, my mom would instruct me to go to the adjoining restaurant down stairs and have them fill up her thermos with a pot of coffee. I didn’t mind at all. That made me independent and on my own on the big island before she would wake in the early afternoon. She would give me extra money to buy a hot chocolate while I waited for the coffee to brew. I can still hear the sound of the chocolate whipping around in the brewing machine. I remember the super thick white mugs and the canned whip cream on top. No, I did not mind a tall. Many of the old timers knew my mom. When you live on the Island most everyone has two or three jobs, if not more. My mom was a beautician and worked for Lolo’s, which is a barbershop next to the bus depot.
I remember when I was three years old, she brought over two mean baby-sitters to watch us. My youngest brother had just had his first birthday, so he doesn’t remember, but they talked pig Latin so we wouldn’t understand them.
I specifically remember holding onto my mom’s leg crying because I didn’t want her to leave for work, as she walked down the steep hills trying to brush me off so she wouldn’t be late. Normally, me and my older brother Steve would fight. He hated it when I was born because I got all the attention. In fact, you can find 20-30 pictures of him as an infant but only one of me and my face was scribbled on. It cost my mom $150.00 to reconstruct my picture so I had at least one. Once the scribble was off I could see why my brother was so jealous. Even my first picture with Santa Claus had scribbles on my face. But this trip we stuck together in fear of the baby sitters.
If you hold a seashell up to your ear you can hear the sounds of the ocean captured in the spiral of it’s shell. When I think of Catalina, I hear distinctive sounds, see images, and smells. There is this beach on the Island called “Lover’s Cove” and it’s made of millions of small stones. It’s loud because as the water crashes up against the stones, it has a unique crashing sound. As the water seeps back out to the ocean, the stones tumble over each other. It creates a mixture of sounds, like the sound of rain mixed with a gigantic cold Coke-a-Cola being poured into a glass of ice in a hollow echo chamber. If you’re brave enough to get in the water after painfully walking on the rounded rocks, you will be greeted with schools of fish waiting to be fed. If you bring food to feed them they will eat right out of your hand. Lots of them. Enough to scare you,especially since you’re in the middle of them and they’re nibbling at your feet. It’s always fun to snorkel there and watch the tourists freak out when they think they are being attacked by schools of fish. One time I met this cute tough guy named Vinnie, from Brooklyn of all places. He wanted to go snorkeling. I had taken snorkeling lessons and desired to dive someday. I started collecting used scuba equipment at flea markets. I told him he could go with meat the dive park on the outskirts of the Casino. There you will find less fish and more seaweed. Tall forests of seaweed 30 feet high where the tops rest on the top of the water. A little more scary than being attacked by fishes I might ad. We went together. He was so scared he was hyperventilating in the middle of the park and I didn’t have a lot of sympathy. I was gagging on salt water from laughing so hard. He decided to get out and snorkel another day at the kiddies pool at ‘Lover’s Cove.’ Casino snorkeling was for the big girls.
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“Respect is an unwritten contract. Love is unconditional, even through time. Self-respect is laying down the boundaries, and it doesn’t always come cushioned in cotton candy.” -Stacy Poulos