Thursday, May 2, 2013

Before the Class Reunion - Priscilla Slater

I'd like to introduce Priscilla, Trudy, Tim, Celeste, and Laura five years after graduation from Piney Point High School. Each of their stories will be told in their point of view over the next couple of weeks.


Priscilla Slater

You are invited to
Piney Point High School’s
5-Year Reunion
June 6, 1998 at 7:00 PM
Piney Point High School Gym
Attire: Dressy
RSVP: Laura or Pete Moss 601-555-1515

I stare at the invitation, half wanting to go but knowing I’d have to give up something more important to do so. For the past three years, I’ve run Prissy’s Cut ‘n Curl Hair Salon in Piney Point, Mississippi, and I’m ready to move to the next level of my career. I recently bought my second salon, and now I have the opportunity to purchase some land for a brand new facility in Jackson.
            Even though I hate clutter, the invitation has been sitting on my kitchen table for the past three days. With a deep sigh and prayer that I won’t regret my decision, I pick up the phone, punch in Laura’s phone number, and leave a message with my regrets. Then I toss the invitation into the trash. At least I didn’t have to talk to the woman with the whiniest voice in town.
            When my phone rings ten minutes later, I look down and see that it’s Mother. “Hey.”
            “That’s not a very polite way to answer,” she says. “What if I’d been someone really important?”
            I sink back down into the chair. “You know you’re important to me.”
            “That’s not why I’m calling.” Her clipped tone shoots straight through me, and I cringe. I brace myself for a tongue-lashing. “I heard you’re not going to the reunion.”
            “I don’t know how you found out. I just made that decision ten minutes ago.”
            “This is Piney Point.” Mother pauses. “You know people will talk about you if you don’t go, right?”
            “I’m sure.” Quite frankly, I don’t care if people talk, but I don’t say that to Mother, or she’ll go off on a tangent about how important it is to be concerned about what other people think. I’ve heard it all my life, and it only escalated when I opted out of college for a career in beauty.
            “Well…I don’t really blame you for not wanting to show your face after what you up and did.”
            “I’d be embarrassed too if I were you. I mean, after getting elected ‘Most Likely to Succeed,’ and then dropping out of college before you earned a single credit…not something to brag about.”
            I stand back up, lift my head, and take a deep breath. “Mother, I’m proud of who I am. Being a hairdresser is an honorable profession, and if I had it to do over again, I would.”
            “Each to her own, I suppose.”
            The tone of her voice rankles me to my bones, but I don’t want her to know. I do my best to bring the lilt back to my voice. “Actually, the reason I’m not going is that I have to look at some property in Jackson. An estate owns it, and they’re trying to dump it for a super low price. If I don’t act quickly, I’ll lose out on the best deal ever.”
            “Sweetie, the best deal ever would have been finishing your degree and then getting your masters so you could become a professor like your father and me.”
            This is an argument I know I’ll never win, so I keep my mouth shut and let her go on and on about how she and Dad pulled themselves up from being farm kids to their current status and gaining respect from the very people who shunned them, in my eyes, making her one of them. The one time I had a comeback, I thought I’d never hear the end of it.
            “I wish you’d chosen a more honorable career path,” she continues.
            What is more honorable than making women feel good about themselves? I’ll never forget how frumpy I felt back in high school. Mama made me wear silver braces because she thought the ones with color were silly. I had mousy hair that I wanted highlighted with every ounce of my being. And I donned the dowdiest duds in the entire school, just because Mother thought intelligence was the most attractive feature a girl could have.
            She went on and on for a solid fifteen minutes before she finally realized I hadn’t said much. “Have you been listening to me, Priscilla?”
            I cross my fingers behind my back. “Yes, of course I have, Mother.”
            “What did I just say?”
            “You think I should give up my career and go back to school.” That’s all I heard, so I hold my breath.
            “Okay, so you were listening. I just wish you’d stop being so stubborn and do what I tell you to. You know I’m right.”
            “Maybe so, but I like what I’m doing.”
            “There’s obviously no getting through to you. One of these days, you’ll come around.”
            After we hang up, I feel all the energy drain from my body. I walk over to the trashcan, glanced down at the invitation that lies there, face up, taunting me, and then close my eyes as I step back. I can’t let Mother continue getting to me like this, but her voice continues to echo in my head.
            The only way I can change that is to turn on the TV. I go back out to my living room, pick up the remote, and do a little channel surfing until it lands on TVNS, a television retailer out of New York. One of the internationally renowned hairdressers is there hawking one of his latest products that I just happen to know isn’t all that great.
            I sit down on the edge of the sofa and watch him smiling at the camera, demonstrating on one of the models, and touting all the benefits of his hair system. This is something I know I can do. As I continue watching, a new idea formulates in my head. TVNS is a national retailing sensation—a great way to get word out to millions of viewers who hate shopping in malls.
            And it fits in with my other goal—to own and operate the largest chain of hair salons in the Eastern United States. I’ll already be known for making women beautiful, so why not sell the system on TVNS? Maybe that’s what it’ll take to get Mother’s respect.

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