Disclaimer: This is a purely fictional tale, no such encounter ever took place…but oh, if it had…
A warm, soft-breezy day on Malibu Beach in August of ‘59.
Not a busy beach day for it’s Monday but some pale-skinned tourists and well-healed retired couples and Mothers with young children are quietly filling up the sandy shore. It’s a Teacher’s Day today in High School so teenagers from the Greater L.A. Area are haunting the coastline too - a rare thing for a weekday.
One Mother had to drive all the way in from the Valley to get her teenage daughter to the beach she loved the best, for this young Valley Girl had yet to attain her own driver’s license and was therefore at the mercy of her more-than-patient and loving Mom.
Another Mother had to merely stroll outside onto her own balcony to watch from afar her young child playing in this Pacific Ocean paradise, for this Mother and this child lived right on Malibu Beach, in a very pricey beachfront home. Afar was just as far as this socialite Mother would go in attending to her daughter anyway, so it was just as well they lived on the beach, for she never really wanted to get too involved in her daughter’s life, doing so might distract her from Country Club activities, Bridge games and volunteering for Charity Balls - top priorities for her and all the well-placed Malibu wives of leisure. Who could possibly have the time nor, dare we say, the interest, for a child under foot, when the social ladder had to be climbed for themselves and for the sake of their career-driven Los Angelian husbands?
Not a cloud in the sky and the Pacific was its usual dead calm. Rhythmic, rolling, roiling waves broke ever so smoothly against the pearlescent sand - so warm to the touch and so very dry on shore, so refined as to dare to be pure silica, slippery and oh, so soft it was.
The Malibu Beach Life Guards were at their posts but socializing was more on tap than the thought of saving lives, for the ocean-going populous was so low on this day and the visibility was so high, the water so tame, that to warrant more attention on the well-behaved bathers was a sheer waste of time when girl-watching was so at hand.
Off, down a ways, near Guard Shack #3, the Valley Mom parked her station-wagon and out popped her daughter from the passenger side. Stunning, this teenage girl was, golden blond-haired with a sun-kissed tan, the epitome of a California Girl if there ever was one. Her Mom followed behind her, slowly lugging beach paraphernalia as she went. This Valley Mom was not as beautifully striking as her daughter but you could tell that maybe, in her hay-day, she was. She would keep polite distance from her daughter today, taking up solo-residence on a brightly coloured, hibiscus-flowered beach blanket, her sun-bathing set-up positioned just in the right spot on the beach – close enough to keep an eye on her Valley Girl daughter as she mingled with all of her other teenage friends, far enough away to give her the independence she craved. The Valley Girl hurriedly dropped her shorts and T-shirt to reveal an adorable pink and white polka-dotted bikini, kissed her Mom quick on the cheek and joyfully jogged toward her volley-ball playing friends, when out of the corner of her eye she spotted that young child who luckily made Malibu Beach her home.
Malibu Girl sat in the middle of a plethora of sand-castle-making tools and a couple of what looked like brand-new Beach Barbie-dolls for 1959. One doll was dressed in a lovely blue and white one-piece jumper, the other doll in a matching blue and white sun-dress, matching sea-blue eye-shadow and sun-glasses to boot, a small, white vinyl Barbie carrying-case with all the accessories Barbie would ever want or need and a wondrous mini Barbie Beach house, both tucked away nicely on a beach towel behind this little Malibu Girl. But what caught the Valley Girl’s eye was that this little girl was not playing with her toys at all, for a sure and steady stream of tears which flowed down her cheeks prevented her interest or ability. This lucky little Malibu Girl seemed so lonely - her face so full of sorrow and sadness – emotions utterly contrary to the sheer beauty and tranquility of her surroundings. The Valley Girl stopped in her tracks wondering how on earth anyone could ever be sad on Malibu Beach, thinking that such an emotion must be against the law, or at least the law of any reasonable beach-loving California girl.
“Hi there. Hey, you have the new Beach Barbies, don’t ya? My kid sisters would kill for those dolls. And just look at all those clothes and chairs and towels and shoes and that fantastic beach house. Why aren’t you playing with them, little girl?”, said the Valley Girl to the Malibu Girl.
“No one to play with, I guess. You can’t play Barbie’s and have lotsa fun just by yourself, you know”, said the little Malibu Girl in between sniffles and gulps of air, this Little One possessing the reasoned maturity and the hopelessness of an aged senior citizen waiting for God.
The Valley Girl hearing the Malibu Girl’s response quickly forgot about her teenage friends who were frantically waving at her to come join them in their beach game and instead plunked herself down next to this lonely little Rich-Girl, the warm sand below them and the warm sun above, and without further ado or explanation, the Valley Girl got down to some serious make-believe.
“It’s so great to be on the beach at our nice little Barbie beach-house, Sis. I love our matching outfits but should we dress into our matching bathing-suits instead and go for a swim before Ken and G.I. Joe arrive for dinner?”, said the Valley Girl for her Barbie-doll.
“Oh, yes, let’s!”, said Malibu Girl for her Barbie, her sorrow washing away as with the outgoing tide.
So the two girls began diving into the Barbie carrying case to whip into their new ensembles with accessories - beach shoes, matching towels, mini plastic bottles of suntan lotion, chaise lounge chairs and the all-important Barbie surf-boards - the fact that there were eight years between these two girls didn’t make an ounce of difference. Once their precious dolls were ready, they held on to them for dear life and gleefully ran to the shoreline to dip both their Beach Barbies and themselves into the frothy, silky-smooth waves, giggling, romping, talking for their dolls, having their Barbies surf like the real big girls were doing right in front of them, Malibu Girl and Valley Girl having the time of their lives. The Valley Girl was reminded that you’re never too old nor too mature to play with Barbies. The Malibu Girl wishing she could be best friends with her new, older friend, for the rest of her life.
All afternoon, the pair played without a thought or care, the Valley Mom immensely proud of her teenage daughter, that she would sacrifice her day for this lonely child, lovingly watching her daughter and this little waif from a discrete distance, bursting with pride this Valley Mom was, her daughter blooming into a mature, giving woman, right before her very eyes. If Valley Mom lived a thousand lifetimes, she knew she would never be any more proud of her Valley Daughter than she was today.
The Malibu Mom, on the other hand, not as aware, not as proud, barely glancing down at the two girls in between trips back into the beach-house to fill her martini glass, in between phone calls with her society friends, in between applications of sun-screen, in between reading the latest Hollywood rag, not noticing nor caring, really, that some good soul had made her daughter’s day.
Valley Girl’s friends finally went on to play volleyball without her, realizing the Good Samaritan their friend truly was. The brilliant day wore on for all and as the sun finally lowered in the horizon, Valley Girl’s friends packed up the game and began heading home for the day, a cue for Valley Girl that it was time to say Goodbye to her new little friend as well.
As Valley Girl wiped the sand off of her legs as she rose, she saw that the wide-grin and toothy smile of her new play-mate, Malibu Girl, had washed away and was replaced by an immediate second river of silently flowing tears;
“Oh, please don’t go”, pleaded Malibu Girl. “We just met and, well, I have way more Barbie’s at home, a dune buggy and a camper. I can run to my house and get’em, if you want? Please don’t go, ‘cause if you go, I’ll have to go home for good”, this little girl added, sniffling and gulping yet again.
“Look though, your Mom is waving you in and I know my Mom over there has had enough sun. We have to go, both of us, and who knows, we’ll probably play together again some time soon, I come here lots, it’s my favourite beach. I hope to own a posh home on this beach some day like your parents own. You’re so lucky to actually live here, you’ll soon forget me, having all this before you all the time”, said the Valley Girl, gently patting Malibu Girl’s head as she continued to sit stoic and sorrowful on the sand, arms folded in desperate defiance.
“No. I’ll never see you again, I know I won’t. As soon as I can, I’m leaving here. My family doesn’t even know I’m alive hardly. Sure, we all live under the same, nice roof but we just pretend to be a nice family, our parents don’t even care we kids exist. Yes, once I’m your age or thereabouts, I’ll be gone and find people who really love me, a real family, just you wait!”, cried out Malibu Girl to her new teenage friend.
The Valley Girl saw that there was no use in debating, she could see the hurt in Malibu Girl’s eyes and the determination, even at such a young age, that she meant what she said. To be that disillusioned with your family at such a young age sent pangs of sadness through Valley Girl’s heart, secretly hoping that when she made it big in Hollywood as a model or an actress, she could herself rescue this Little Girl and keep her for her very own.
“Hey, we played all day and I didn’t even get your name”, said Valley Girl, trying to get Malibu Girl to forget her woes.
“Nancy. But I’ll change that too when I leave. I hate my name as much as I hate my family. Brenda has a nice ring to it; I’ll probably be named Brenda when I’m a big girl.”
Clearing her throat and really on the verge of tears herself for this Little One, “So very nice to meet you, Nancy, my name is Sharon. I like my name so even when I become a star, I think I shall stay a Sharon.”
“So nice to meet you, Sharon. We’re best friends now, aren’t we?”, asked Nancy.
“You bet, Nancy, best friends forever”, responded Sharon in the sweetest, most heart-felt way she could.
Nancy got up, wiped sand off her legs too and slowly gathered up all her Barbie accoutrement and began to pad back to her beach house. Sharon, once she had seen that Nancy made it safely to the steps of her home, strolled back to her Mom, Doris.
Nancy, now known as Brenda, dutifully in tow behind her new “Father”, Charlie, would view Sharon’s mutilated body on her California dream-house living room floor exactly a decade plus one day later.
The girls never played Barbies together again.
Barbie doll title photo: ngm.nationalgeographic.com