I tooted the horn before pulling out onto our street. My husband waved, with the dog standing nearby. I wouldn’t see them again until Sunday afternoon.

When our military family was active duty, I was content taking a couple of trips a year. But now, as a “retired” military spouse that doesn’t move anymore, I depend on weekend getaways to break up the monotony of normal civilian life.

I had planned this trip with my high school girlfriends months ago, and my excitement was building. In four hours, I’d arrive in the Catskills, and meet up with Patrice, my best friend since ninth grade, and three other girlfriends whom I hadn’t seen much since we graduated from high school in 1984 — Andrea, Peggy and Ann.

As my GPS rattled on, I thought of the tote bag in the trunk containing a mother lode of high school memorabilia: my old yearbooks, photographs, journals and dog-eared notes passed in study hall. My hoarding tendencies had paid off after all.

While making my way to Upstate New York, I envisioned our rental house. The Airbnb photos depicted a spacious, Swiss-style chalet, seemingly plucked straight out of the Alps, in a gorgeous sylvan setting, with a charming warming hut and an outdoor hot tub.

“We’re going to have a blast,” I thought, imagining us as unrealistically stylish, thirty-something actresses, flipping locks of shiny hair, flashing brilliant white teeth, wearing slouchy cotton sweaters and well-worn Levis, drinking fine wines around an open fire in front of a spectacular mountain backdrop.

It was a bad habit of mine — imagining things to be far better than reality — that set me up for disappointment.

That cold, drizzly afternoon, I drove my car through dreary, mud-splattered towns, past abandoned motor lodges and rinky-dink diners. Over a bridge and up a hill, I turned onto an unpaved dead end road, and finally, onto our rental property as directed by my GPS. “You have arrived.”

“Wait, what?” I said, peering bug-eyed out of the smeary windshield of my car. “This is it?” The small, wood-sided house looked nothing like the photographs online.

“It’ll be fine,” my best friend said, laughing. Patrice had driven up from Pittsburgh with Peggy. Soon, Andrea arrived, followed by Ann, who surprised us by wearing her old cheerleading sweater.

I was prepared to impose a strict activity schedule to combat awkward silences. However, the chatter never stopped. Conversation and laughter flowed for hours on end as if we’d never left high school. Food and drink appeared in a haphazard, chaotic dribble throughout the night, until the table was piled high with burnt pizza burgers, wine glasses, pierogis, peanut butter confection bars, buffalo chicken dip, cheese and crackers, chips, yearbooks and photographs.

“Oh, my God, listen to this!” each of us yelled before reading lines from an old note or yearbook autograph. Our adolescent scribblings expressed the immature sentiments of our teen years: “The dance is in two days and no one has asked me yet!” “I hate Chemistry!” “Did you tell him I like him?” “Gag me with a fork!” “I’ll never get a boyfriend!” “She’s so FAKE!”

Although we’d made plans to explore the Catskills on Saturday, we barely made it out of our pajamas. Pots of coffee led to Bloody Marys and mimosas. This time, the table was heaped with bagels, sweet rolls, quiche, fruit and again our yearbooks. That afternoon, while snow fell over the Catskills, we sat around a roaring fire in the warming hut, singing along to The B-52s, The Go-Go’s, The Squeeze, U2, Prince, Tears for Fears, Depeche Mode, The Police and more.

That night, although we were all reluctant to stuff our imperfect 57-year-old bodies into bathing suits, we got in the hot tub. Like a water-filled time machine, the hot tub transported us back in time. Bobbing in the bubbles, we were 15 again, cracking juvenile jokes and busting each other’s chops.

On my Sunday drive home, I noticed that overnight, the trees had been encased in thick layers of ice, glittering like silver sequins in the bright sunlight. It occurred to me that the weekend hadn’t disappointed me after all. In fact, reality was even better than I’d imagined.

Read more at and in Lisa’s book, “The Meat and Potatoes of Life: My True Lit Com.” Email:

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