How to Get Your Kid into College

Outside it is one thousand degrees. Pool water is lava. Even the world’s greatest ice-cream does not appeal when it boils into a puddle before I pay for it, and expecting Lexi to achieve order over a dripping cone of chocolate-caramel-crunch is expecting light winds and fragrant, cooling rains.

While other parents are busy taking their kids berry picking, to Lego Night at the public library, or to the local food shelter to deliver freshly made sandwiches, Dave and I thought we’d leave our girls bereft of any meaningful experiences and then one day, in the midst of an excruciating heat-wave, take them to Dutch Wonderland.

I figure this way my girls when applying to colleges as high school seniors will have material for any number of personal essay topics. Their greatest conflict: trying to get their mother out of the house. Their role model: Auntie Jordan because she actually did stuff. Or: Describe the time you first realized your parents were just a little bit crazy.

“Why don’t you write about our trip to Dutch Wonderland?” I will suggest to them when they are high school seniors. It may take a second for them to register. By then, they may have blocked out a lot. “Remember? On Monday, July 15, 2013, the hottest recorded day in Lancaster, Pennsylvania history?”

I may need to provide highlights.

It was a gorgeously cool drive from Grandma’s house in Philly. As the car air-conditioning behaved appropriately, we gazed at cornfields and church steeples. We approached the faux stone rampart towers of the Wonderland Castle, piled out of the air-conditioning, opened the trunk of the car to grab the bags and beach towels . . . and then a gigantic combination of cicada, japanese beetle, and horsefly unrelentingly made for Lexi’s head.

This may be the point at which Lexi remembers the trip. “Oh, right!” she will say. “I ran away from you in the parking lot while you screamed at me to stop running away from you in the parking lot.” Her eyes may squint a bit in recognition. She may turn away as she mutters, “Psycho, mad-lady-in-the-attic type screaming.”

I will approve of her Jane Eyre reference because, so too, will the college admissions people, and I will move on, detailing more of the day.

We entered the park then immediately jumped into the first available log in the Dragon’s Lair because we saw water and assumed it would be cool. The log inched around the lagoon on some sort of kiddie-slow-track. Back and forth through the muddied pond in the heat of the day we lurched, while truck after truck on Lincoln Highway East barreled by at an enviously quicker pace.

The Sky Ride was a welcomed relief because it was, as advertised, a ride in the sky–so we were able to catch a breeze. But I was so nervous that Lexi was going to free-fall out of the thing, diving after a renegade flip-flop or towards the funnel cakes below, that sweat had its way between numerous folds of skin. I was awash by the time my feet found solid ground.

Could not wait for the double log flume. I like a flume.

As opposed to a roller coaster.

Even though I know it’s as simple as a train on a track, I’ve never trusted the mechanics of the roller coaster because the track is in the air. I imagine the loops and links and chains of the coaster going on holiday all at once. Right when I’m airborne. And all that noise, the clickety-clack–it’s just working too hard.

The flume is my ride. Cadillac smooth. You get a little splash. Plus they take your picture.


Turns out Dave is not an amusement park guy. He skis black diamonds, no problem. But when the Twister stopped and he thought it was the end of the ride and then the voice announced Now we go backwards! . . . I could see Dave–four cars ahead of me–crumble a little as he cuddled up closer to his 7-year-old, who sat excitedly beside him.

It didn’t help that we’d all consumed a gallon each of Italian Water Ice just minutes earlier. Caroline had picked up the phrase “lose your lunch” recently from a Barbie movie, and she used it generously throughout the day, in reference to her Daddy.

The girls loved the Turnpike, driving without a license. The high-dive show at Aqua Stadium. The water-park area, especially the Pipeline Plunge–Dave in street clothes took them each down the winding water slide. Gotta give him that.

But the monorail, for me, was the most memorable, the stuff of Pulitzer Prize winning personal essays, our gift to our children. The kind of rich material we hope to continually provide for them throughout the years. A free-pass, really, to the college of their dreams.

We waited like cows in a long line to enter narrow, enclosed cars. We sardined onto benches, sharing the small, stale space with a pleasant Amish family–three boys and a mother, who smilingly carried on polite conversation as we circled the park.

There was an evident time/space issue at work because the teenaged boy who initially ushered us all into the cars had assured us it was a 7-minute ride, but this ride was endless. Time stopped.

Lexi sat frozen in heat looking straight ahead, unable to stand because we were directed to sit, unable to see out of the window because she was too short. Caroline smushed beside me and though I love her dearly, her hand on my hot thigh defined “discomfort”–I could not imagine anything less comfortable happening to me than someone else’s skin (even my own daughter’s) touching my own.

I looked at Dave crushed against his pane of glass then looked away quickly because I knew I was about to lose it in laughter. Not quaint little giggle laughter but the kind that bursts out of me when I am insane. Dave recalled the wedding of his good friend, how hot it was, how his other friends looked at him with horror as he stood dripping at the altar, and there on the monorail I saw that same look in the eyes of our children … and the sweet Amish woman across the way.

All I could do was bust out laughing and take a picture.


Caroline and Lexi, you’re welcome.

3 Comments on “How to Get Your Kid into College”

  1. Katie Flaherty Savage says:

    Hi Katie – thanks for sharing your writing. You always make me laugh. And, don’t worry, your girls will have no issues getting into the college of their dreams. I’m sure they will develop the amazing gift of writing that you have!

  2. Rachel Lloyd Miller says:

    Regan — yet again, I laugh out loud. How well you capture the misery that can only be followed by years of lore. I, too, am one of those mothers who doesn’t “do” anything….and I am committed to the air conditioning at home and the short drive to our poool. If I am tempted to branch out and give the kids a little culture, I will reread this, and turn up the A/C another notch before beginning another episode of My Little Pony. oxox

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