Childhood


My hair is easy. Wash. Dry. Or maybe not even dry. Allow to dry. I like to think that it looks vaguely presentable almost all the time, for at least the first five or six hours post washing. 

Then there are the inevitable days that come around every now and again where I want to do something different with my hair. I get all nostalgic for the perfect Shirley Temple curls I managed to create on my head for one magical evening when I was 18 and about to attend my senior prom (see photo). This was a miraculous occurrence. Never before or since has my hair looked so pristine and perfect. Despite many, many attempts. 

Senior Prom Hair

One such attempt took place this very morning. I woke up a good twenty minutes early (already asking for trouble) for the explicit purpose of having enough time to create that ringlet effect with my rather stubbornly thick and frizzy mess of hair. Things started out well. The first few ringlets were quite reminiscent of the soft curls I once managed to sport to my own tremendous pleasure. But they went south fast. 

It began to look as though I was creating a nest on my head. Also, I couldn’t always get the curling iron around the bits of my hair in the back so in the end, the back of my head was a mess of ringlets, natural wave, and board straight from the blow dryer. And I burned my ear somewhere along the way, cursing vehemently. 

Okay, but LizHarrell is nothing if not resourceful in a pinch. So I thought of it in terms of survival. My options: 

  • Re-shower.
  • Run a brush through the mess and hope for the best.
  • Pull it back as much as possible.
  • Keep fiddling with the curling iron until I have no choice but to leave for work.
  • Call in sick.

Easiest option was to pull it back, so I tried it. To my distinct surprise, it didn’t look so bad. I left a few tendrils hanging in the front. Rather whimsical and sweet. 

Still, it wasn’t what I’d been going for. I kept repeating the phrase, “This was an ill-conceived idea and was poorly executed,” as if I was critiquing myself on The Next Food Network Star or something. I berated myself all the way to the gas station where I absolutely HAD to stop for gas. It was at this point I glanced up into the rear view mirror. What the heck? My pretty, whimsical ringlets were board straight. No, I take that back. They were weird wavy. And hanging right in my eyes. Fantastic. 

The curse of the poorly ventilated vehicle strikes again! That, and humid July weather that is hot and damp at 7 AM. 

And trust me, I didn’t stop thinking about the epic failure of my hair all day long. I ran to the restroom just to ponder my reflection more than once. 

It wasn’t that it looked that bad. In fact, it looked alright. But it wasn’t at all what I had been going for this morning. Not even remotely close. And I was disappointed. Still have no idea how I managed to pull off the ringlets the first time around (nearly ten years ago now), but there really was something magical about the way it all came together that night. For once, when an amazing hair day would be exceptionally useful, it worked out. 

Ever since then, however, my attempts have just left me with a worse-than-normal hair day. I think the moral of this story is, don’t worry so much about your hair. It’ll make you crazy. And it’s really quite vain. So stop. And if that doesn’t help, just look back at those senior prom pics and realize that really, your hair kind of looked like a fro. Then you won’t care so much. I promise.

  • I still think Pop Ice is the most amazing sweet treat in the world.
  • I still listen to stupid teeny pop music on a regular basis.
  • I am still a tiny bit scared of my Mom.
  • I sometimes wish I were still in high school.
  • I would rather do calculus homework than clean my bedroom.
  • I’ve read/listened to each book in the Harry Potter series about twelve times each.
  • Every now and then I forget to brush my teeth before bed.
  • I would regularly sleep until lunch time if I could.
  • I occasionally cuss just to sound cool.
  • Disney is the best cable television station. Bar none.
  • I secretly want to live at an amusement park.
  • Driving is still so cool.
  • I still miss spots when I apply sunscreen at the beach and get horrible sunburns.
  • And finally, OMG, like, isn’t it fun to make EVERYTHING into an acronym?

It’s that time of night* when I’ve usually settled in with my book (currently: re-reading Alias Grace – Margaret Atwood) but I’ve been writing for three hours (by hand, still) and though I’ve tired of the story I was telling, I still have some primal need to keep moving pencil across page.

For some reason I feel compelled to discuss the fact that I’ve created an actual, physical reading list for  my unborn children. I first composed this list at fifteen and  have since added even more fantastic  works of fiction. I wonder now if it’s an oversight to include only fictional works? I can think of maybe  two non-fiction books (outside of text books) I read growing up, and another handful of character building books my Dad assigned me. Maybe I’ll just let my Mom and Dad make a list of  such books and they can attempt to enforce the reading of said books. Fiction is generally much more agreeable.

Not to mention that once my kiddos have read a few of my selections, they’ll come to trust my excellent taste. I’ve  even considered the fact that my son(s) will be opposed on principle to reading The Little Princess so I’ve added (where necessary) some “boy” selections. Only where the ones I’d prefer them to read are just unbearably girly. They’ll grow out of this, of course, so by the time Pride and Prejudice shows up on the list, they don’t get to opt out.

Mostly I’ve included books  I managed to avoid in English classes over the years (can you believe I never had to read Pride and Prejudice as an English major??) but books (or rather plays, in these instances) like Hamlet and Oedipus Rex were quite influential in my education as a person and a writer that they found their way onto the list as well.

I have such strong and vivid memories of being read to as a child, I can’t deny my children the same experience. I’ve included most of the  books that were read to me, like The Chronicles of Narnia and A Wrinkle in Time. I can remember being amazed by these books, completely absorbed in the characters and action, never being satisfied when whichever parent happened to be reading to me at the time got tired and quit for the night. I couldn’t wait until I could read and thought it would be beyond awesome if I could create something equally magical.

Not that I want (or expect) my children to be struck by the writer bug (it’s a poor living, so far), but I do know my life would be so much smaller without  books and I want a big, vivid, book-filled life  for my kids. And because I’ve put so much forethought into it, I know they’ll be reading quality literature instead of Tiger Beat and Harry Potter (JUST KIDDING! All seven volumes feature prominently on the list!).

* Note: This was written around 11:30 pm, not at 3:30 in the afternoon as the time stamp might suggest 🙂

On the lake, late fall, in what amounts to a log cabin in the woods. It’s early evening but it’s already dark and I’ve been here for a couple of hours. We’re all here, we’re all midway through our meal of pizza and self-decorated cake. We sip on our Cokes or Coronas, laughing, poking fun, sharing stories from lives we have missed all these years.

This is our reunion.

It is important, the reason why we’re all gathering this Holiday Season instead of the six or seven Thanksgivings previous now, but at the same time, it doesn’t matter at all. We’re here. We’re together. There’s a Christmas tree being decorated by three slightly hyper kids. The children of my friends. They are beautiful.

The hostess of the gathering has her iPod playing Norah Jones, the most mellow of artists, putting me in a very contemplative mood. This circle of friends has been in tact for ten years at least, with most of the group having met over twelve years ago. We were then a motley crew of teens from all over Birmingham, varied backgrounds, varied interests, varied ambitions. And today, we’re all the same kind of different we always were.

I don’t think, at eighteen, any of us could picture whether or not we’d be close, eight years later. We might have pictured who’d probably be married, who’d have kids, who’d be the most successful. But I couldn’t have imagined the emotions I’d have watching the scene of our reunion unfold. Nostalgia, of course. We were all so young and beautiful once, so full of potential. It isn’t that we aren’t all still beautiful and potentially unlimited, only my own personal disappointments (in terms of career and beauty) weigh heavily on me. Self consciously, I realize I’ve fallen into my usual routines of observation. I’ve found a chair, my own corner, sip a drink, and watch, listen. I am deeply moved by the small interactions between old friends. There is much shared history here, when years of separation leave only slight signs of wear.

This is the sort of reunion I’m so glad we’ve had a chance to experience, before the hustle and bustle of reuniting with the other fifty classmates we graduated with at the Ten Year Reunion. It’s coming along here soon enough. But this is much better, much more relaxed. Less pressure. Mellow. Warm. With the folks I’m confident and comfortable around, no matter how crappy my job is, or how many pounds I’ve gained over the years. These are my friends. And it’s so nice to be together again, even for one evening. A reunion resplendent in its simplicity, a coming together in sympathy and in celebration, a moment to look backwards while realizing how much there is still to look forward to.

This is our reunion, and nothing planned in less haste with more fanfare could have been better.

There are some folks out there who are regularly plagued with nightmares. I’m not one of them. I could probably recount to you in space of a normal blog posting the entire list of all the nightmares I’ve experienced. I guess you could say that I’m fairly lucky to be a regular (as in, nightly) dreamer but to be only occasionally bothered by nightmares.

Sometimes I have a hard time falling asleep (rest assured, I’ve already started what promises to be a fascinating post on this subject) and I have to take a little melatonin to add to my natural levels that just aren’t enough to put me out at night. Last night was one of those nights.

Now, for those of you who’ve never had to take melatonin to get a little sleep, I’ll tell you it does some wonky things with one’s dreams. Not necessarily bad things, but definitely intensifies normal dreaming in vividness and clarity.

Last night just happened to be a particularly bad night to take dream-enhancing hormones as things started off badly. There was a massive spider on the floor in my very first dream of the evening. Not massive like tarantula massive, but black, poisonous looking, with hella-long legs. I don’t remember where I was or who I was with, but I remember that spider. And that spider decided it would be awesome to dance on my toes.

In the land of the wide awake and non-dreaming, my toes were twitching. I’ve never experienced twitching toes while awake, but the moment my eyes popped open and my feet started moving to kick away that spider, I knew something was different. My toes were moving without my specific permission. And they wouldn’t stop, so of course for at least three seconds, I believed there really was a large, poisonous spider dancing on the toes of my right foot. The panic that ensued kept me fully wide awake for a good long while, thus defeating the purpose of the melatonin altogether. Blurgh.

This is a running theme in the nightmares I’ve had in my lifetime – scary scary things doing fairly amusing activities  leaving me completely freaked out.

When I was little, I had a recurring nightmare that I was sitting in my dad’s lap. That wasn’t the nightmarish part, of course, it got that way later. All of a sudden I’d look up at Dad and instead of him, I’d find a skeleton in his place. And the skeleton would start to tickle me. Can you imagine how frightening this was for a five year old? Trust me, it was quite upsetting indeed. And it wasn’t one of those one time nightmares – it happened a few times at least, and the images are permanently ingrained into my brain. Very upsetting.

Now, my second nightmare of last night was also a little absurd, because it involved me being chased around a hospital by an elderly, demented man toting his own IV stand. This man couldn’t even run, much less hobble after me, but somehow he caught up. He almost fell over when I shoved his doughy chest, but he still seemed super menacing. My fear actually woke me up.

Maybe the reason why I don’t often haven nightmares is that I find truly ridiculous things to be frightening… I mean who is really scared of dancing spiders (except maybe Ron Weasley)? Or a skeleton who’s only threatening vice is to tickle me? And seriously, an old man with a moving speed similar to a snail’s should not be the most intimidating thing my subconscious mind can come up with. Surely.

This post could go multiple directions based on the title. I think, though, I’ll focus on the different bosses I’ve had during my years as a lifeguard.

My very first boss of my entire life was about six years my senior. I was seventeen at the time. He was good looking, single, and an idiot. Therefore, he became my boyfriend. He was my boss for two months, and my boyfriend for two years. Waste. Of. Time.

As the pool board didn’t really approve of his methods, he was soon replaced by a college girl who was more interested in the upcoming rush events with her sorority than in saving lives. It was pretty obvious she knew she was a temporary hire and couldn’t care less if she were hired back the following summer.

Then came Ms. G. What a lady. I have to be honest that I didn’t care very much for her at first – she was one of those “adult guards” that irritated me so much as a young life-saver. Plus, she had a knack for writing memos when she had a problem with the way any of us were handling our jobs instead of just talking to us about it. But she grew on me. Considering she was my boss for two or maybe even three more summers (and is still my sister’s boss) it’s a good thing we ended up getting along so well. She’s a sweetheart who is much more relaxed than I gave her credit for at first. She schedules half hour breaks for guards like, every three hours or something. Not even my idiot ex-boyfriend did that!

And then my husband and I moved to Mobile, where I was still in school but needed a summer job. Turns out the only thing I was qualified to do was lifeguard (still feels like that’s about all I’m qualified to do), so I took a job at the local country club as the Assistant Aquatics Director – a fancy title for what amounted to “head lifeguard.” The aquatics director I worked under was also a high school football coach. He had his good moments, but I think he can best be summed up by his favorite quote: “If you have time to lean, you have time to clean.” There was no relaxing at this country club, not to mention the fact that working at a country club where you are not even close to being a member is very degrading and stressful. So many people with such high standards. Unrealistically high standards, particularly when it comes to teenagers. So Coach had a lot of work to do to keep us all in line (despite my non-teenager status), though he did tend to go overboard on occasion. He yelled at me once from one end of the pool deck while I was in the other. I can’t remember what on earth he was yelling about, but it really upset me. That was my first opportunity to stand up for myself and I think I did a pretty good job. And then, at the end of the summer, I quit, and haven’t been back. Mobile Country Club, I fear we’ll never meet again. I just don’t think I’ve got Country Clubs in my future, unless they want me to lifeguard for them!

Well, folks, that concludes the Lifeguard Chronicles. I hope they were enjoyed! Until next time… -LH

The post yesterday got me thinking about all the actual work that was involved in lifeguarding. There’s the obvious guarding part of the job, but lifeguards to so much more than just that.

At the two pools I’ve worked, there was a guard rotation. This meant that if I’m in the stand right now and for the next half hour, when I come off of the stand, all of the other guards will rotate through my position before I go back up. This usually meant being in the stand for an hour and down for at least another hour, if not two. What does a guard do when not in the stand?

The most enviable task a lifeguard has is to man the front desk. No lives are requiring your attention, you just have to take money for little kids wanting ice cream, sign in pool members, and answer the phone. It’s fantastical. You can socialize with your fellow guards and pool members a little more easily in this position. It’s where all lifeguards aspire to be as frequently as possible.

However, if there are six guards on duty, two on the stand and two at the desk, that leaves two guards who must find some way to occupy themselves. While a few minutes can be piddled away doing things like getting water or cooling off in the pool, you can never be too sure who is watching and you’ve eventually got to get busy. Here are some of the unenviable tasks that must be completed while a guard rotates through this position:

  • picking up other people’s trash, including, but not limited to: candy wrappers, dropped, melted candy pieces, empty cans, empty plastic cups, empty soda bottles, etc.
  • hosing off the deck. sometimes those sticky pieces of candy require hosing to be fully cleaned up.
  • testing chemicals – someone has to make sure chlorine and pH levels are balanced.
  • mopping the clubhouse floors. ugh.
  • taking out full trash bags. usually this task can wait until the end of the day, but if things are particularly busy, the trash cans tend to fill up pretty quickly.
  • cleaning bathrooms. double ugh.
  • this may sound ridiculous, but I guess someone has to do it – picking trash off of the parking lot. this task is only applicable if everything else has been done, and done twice.
  • cleaning the tiles in the pool. they tend to get grimy with sunscreen and dead skin and hair and dirt, etc every other day or so. this is a pretty enviable task since you get to stay in the pool while you’re doing it.
  • emptying the overflow baskets. there can be some crazy stuff in these, so watch out. you can run into frogs, hair clumps, hair ties, beetles, and any other imaginable sort of wildlife and ickiness.
  • running errands for the manager. this isn’t something that normally comes up, but if you’re lucky, you can snag the job when it comes available.

I think that covers the main chores that have to be done while you rotate off of the desk and the stand. Somebody’s got to be responsible for keeping the pool clean and running, and I’ll tell you, I’ve never found a community pool that had a full time janitor. If you are a lifeguard, your secondary job title is janitor. That’s just the way it works. Sorry guys!

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