Weekend Wanderer: My Daughter Is Applying to College, and I’m Not OK


weekend wanderer

I was driving down Street Road in Bucks County recently when I saw —

Sorry. I have to take a deep breath or this story will be peppered with four-letter words.  

And one seven-letter word. 

And two eight-letter words.  

I saw a kid — a teenager — sitting in the open window of a car as it sped — sped! — down Street Road. 

The top half of his body was perched in the window, his right hand clutching the roof, his left pumped in a triumphant fist.  

And it clicked that this — don’t curse, don’t curse! — this person not only likely goes to school with my kids but is now sharing the road with one of them. 

Let me tell you something. I live one block off of Street Road, but I avoid it like it’s the reptile house at the zoo. If I’m seeing this evil love child of the Autobahn and Fonzie on the rare occasion I traverse Street Road, can you imagine what I’m not seeing? 

Did you guys see Hereditary? The scene where the girl sticks her head out of the car window? That’s what I’m picturing. 

If you haven’t seen Hereditary — I don’t know what to say here. I don’t want to spoil anything. You should just prepare yourself. I mean, I’m a seasoned viewer of horror, but that scene — evil love child of the Autobahn and Fonzie indeed. 

Anyway, I now have a licensed driver in my house who takes Street Road daily as she commutes for school and work. And while I longed for sleep in those blurry months after her birth, sleep now eludes me on a nightly basis. 

Sure. Throw some statistics at me. That people aged 25-34 are more likely than adolescents to die in a flaming car crash while riding in the car window, clasping the roof for support.  

Remind me that my cousin once piled all of us kids into his car. That he took us to a dirt road somewhere in Maryland. That one by one, each of us drove his car. That we were all well under 16. That nobody wore a seat belt. That we were piled on each other’s laps. 

And that nobody died. 

I don’t care. 

That was different because it was me. This is my baby. One day she’s saying “bufferfly” because “butterfly” can always be improved upon.  

And the next she’s driving while listening to this hackneyed band she digs whose every song uses the four-letter word I so badly want to apply to that kid riding down Street Road in the window of his buddy’s car. 

And now — now she’s starting her senior year in a few weeks. We spent the spring of this year in North Carolina and Florida because they are home to her dream climate, landscape, and colleges.  

Four states away. She wants to go to college four states away. I mean, why not just, I don’t know, volunteer for the first manned mission to Mars? Explore an ocean trench? Live at an Antarctic research station? 

In her planned major, she’ll literally swim with sharks — her first-choice school has a shark lab in the Bahamas. And she’ll scuba dive — more on that later — in shark-, eel-, and alligator-infested waters.  

Really? Really. I’m supposed to sleep with kids riding in car windows and shark labs and colleges four states away? OK. Sure. 

I am assured that turning your kids loose in a motorized death trap four states away never gets easier. And I know that’s true. 

How do I know? Because when I drove home from that kid’s camp in North Carolina by myself Willie insisted I text her when I hit the road. And stopped for gas. And arrived at my hotel. And safely locked the door behind me because I’m a pretty girl and you know what happens to pretty girls traveling alone! 

That this pretty girl has a lot of baggage — Willie among it — serving as a deterrent to any road-tripping Lothario didn’t occur to Willie. But one hour in Willie’s orbit is all it would take for any dude traipsing at my heels to turn and run. 

I’m not kidding. In the early days of my marriage, Willie would call me at 10 at night and then berate me for answering the phone instead of making her a grandbaby. This persisted until my husband, tired of getting thwarted, took the phone from my grasp, told Willie she’d never get a grandbaby if she kept calling, and hung up. 

She didn’t call me for a week.  

Hence the grandbaby now driving on Street Road and applying to colleges below the Mason-Dixon Line

“Don’t you worry?” I asked my husband the evening he found me tracking her through a parenting app. 

He shrugged. “Not really,” he said. “She’s fine.” 

That’s it? The whole philosophy to our child driving and leaving home and living in Antarctic research stations? She’s fine? 

I can’t really blame him for his approach, I suppose. He didn’t see that kid riding down Street Road in the window of a car. He didn’t even see Hereditary

And he doesn’t worry about anything, really. He’s like Bruce Willis in Unbreakable. Except instead of never having been injured, he’s never been anxious about anything. 

There is a dead snake in the driveway of my son’s employer. I had to steer my car over its corpse when I dropped off my son this afternoon.  

That employer is located on Street Road. 

So I think I get it now. 

Street Road is a hellscape. 

And I’m never going to sleep again. 

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