It has been TEN YEARS since I graduated from high school. TEN YEARS since I met my college roommate, Dear Friend and subsequently Funky and Fabulous friends. TEN YEARS since I first shook hands with the man I would eventually marry and, last year, divorce. Y’all, I still feel 18.

My ten-year high school reunion is happening this summer. Obviously, I will fool no one who is the occasional reader of this blog, but I have a plan for appearing to have accomplished what some might have thought I was capable of accomplishing in ten years but I haven’t even come close to yet:

I’m not going.

One of my loyal friends will spread the rumor that I’m happily unattached and busily touring the states promoting my YA novels that were published under a nom de plume. Stephenie Meyer perhaps. We are not dissimilarly featured, she and I; I might convince a few folks.

Of course most of Stephenie’s back story will have been fabricated. I live and work quietly in Auburn, am not a graduate of BYU or the mother of three boys with a handsome Hispanic man (ok I’ll admit none of this is probably actually true, I’ve read just enough about the real Ms. Meyer to sound foolish to those who really know what they’re talking about). Anyway, the point is, I’m ME but I’m also secretly wildly successful. And of course they’ve all heard of me and envied me from afar but didn’t realize they were envying ME. And after that night, they’ll say to themselves, “That Liz, I always knew she was going to have an amazing life. I sure do wish I’d kept up with her, I might could have met Taylor Lautner” OR “I bet she wrote Edward Cullen after me, I always knew she liked the quiet, pale, super-smart type” OR “Wow what a sell out. Why didn’t I think of that?”

Then at the 20 year reunion when I show up they’ll all probably have figured out it was all a dirty falsehood, but it won’t matter then because I really will be a successful author who read a bit of her novel to the Creative Writing department the Friday night before and had to take a special break from her book tour just to see them. And my utterly wonderful husband will be by my side, lovingly gazing down at me as I talk about our two great, smart kids who I’d have every intention of enrolling at ASFA if we didn’t love New York so much. And we’ll all laugh about the ten-year reunion that I skipped while pretending to be Stephenie Meyer, and they’ll all think to themselves, “She really didn’t have to do that, Liz is such a star, it just takes everyone different lengths of time to reach their full potential” OR “She’s just as hot as she was twenty years ago” (PLEASE?!?!?) OR “Her books are so much better than Stephenie Meyer’s, thank god…”

And for those of you who actually think I’d skip this reunion and pretend to be someone I’m not, you’d better rethink that. Of COURSE I’m going. I may have to find the bar before I feel like talking much, but I guarantee we’ll all laugh about the disaster of my life. And if I can make people laugh, I’ll feel pretty successful after all.

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.

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.