In the joy category, see this fifty-dollar bill. That’s about how much Mim and I spent in honor of our turning fifty in 1946 (me in April and Mim in July). We celebrated on the California coast at a little townit was little thencalled Mendocino. Mind you, fifty dollars went a long way back then, and we had a glorious weekend, plus the drive there and back, which was an adventure in itself. The Mendocino trip was the second most memorable event for me in ’46. The friendship between Mim and me was close, if not closer, than when we snuck into the fortune-teller’s tent at the 1905 Lewis and Clark Exposition.
Of course a lot of other things happened in 1946. The United Nations got underway. The British Empire was falling apart, including British Mandate Palestine. The people of French IndochinaVietnam nowwere demanding independence from France. President Truman was getting the country back on a peacetime footing, and Bella wrote to say that the large earthquake on Vancouver Island could be felt all the way in Portland.
Mendocino. Have you ever been there? Beautiful coastline, rugged enough to be inspiring, manageable enough to be a settlement for Portuguese fishermen. Logging, too, like the Oregon coast. The town was filled with water towers and windmills, pumping water from rivers and streams into people’s houses. We stayed at the Mendocino Hotel, which used to be called the Temperance House when the town was much larger and rowdy and the hotel was considered a safe haven from the riff-raff. Mim and I ate and laughed, and walked the beach, and laughed, and wandered through the scenic town, and laughed. I told her I could picture an artist colony in Mendocino, and she rolled her eyes and said that I could picture an artist colony practically anywhere.
Late one afternoon we sipped sherry in the hotel lounge and got serious. I started it.
“My estate attorney keeps pestering me for a will,” I told Mim. “He keeps reminding me that I have no husband or children, and that my next of kin are cousins I hardly know. The Jacobowitz clan is more like family to me. Rachel still calls me Aunt Florrie.”
I remember Mim was knitting a lacy shawl. My dear friend rarely had her hands idle. Knitters are like that. She nodded and started on another row.
“I’m leaving the art gallery to Paul and Sidney, and the house to Rachel. Paul could care less about arthe’s not like Sidneybut it’s not fair to leave him nothing. Paul and Sidney will work it out.”
That got her attention. Mim put her knitting in her lap and stared at me. “You must be joking.”
“No, not at all. It’s silly to leave my estate to you; we’re the same age. Even if you do outlive me, I doubt it will be for long. Let’s face it, Mim; you couldn’t live without me.”
She rolled her eyes again, and I was glad. I needed to lighten the mood. As you can guess, the handkerchiefs came out, and we had a teary hug, and she told me how generous I was, and I told her she was a dear friend, and she would have done the same if our roles were reversed. And then we ordered dinner.
LaterI think it was as we were eating dessertshe leaned across the table and said, “Ephraim and I share the house and the print shop, of course, but, Florrie, I want you to see that Rachel gets my prayer shawl. Tell her about Serakh. Rachel will know what to do.”
“Surely Ephraim will see to that,” I said, but she shook her head.
“Even though he doesn’t believe that Serakh exists, he still worries maybe she does. And maybe the person who has the prayer shawl will come to harm. I don’t trust him, Florrie. You have to do this for me.”
“Shouldn’t you tell Rachel yourself?”
“One day I will,” she said. “I mean just in case.”
We left it at that. Early the next morning we bundled into my 1939 Pontiac convertible and headed for Berkeley. We rolled the windows down and sang “Rum and Coca-Cola” and “Don’t Fence Me In” and I don’t remember what else.
After I dropped Mim off at her place, I parked in front of mine. The lights were on in the part of the house where Rachel lived with her family. It felt as if the place were hers already. Not a bad feeling. It’s just that I felt suddenly old and extraneous.
And then I opened the front door and I smelled Sutliff’s Mixture 79 tobacco. My very best moment of 1946. Hans was home.