July 18, 2012

Lesson 20: Great Expectations ... and Amusement Parks

I began watching the movie Great Expectations, with Gwyneth Paltrow and Ethan Hawke, at a sleepover in eighth grade. I have foggy visions from the movie of beautiful scenery, lush greenery, an old romantic house, dewy glass, musty, luxurious upholstery, and mysterious characters. These images of a sweet, fantasy world are engraved in my mind,

I have no idea if this description of Great Expectations is accurate. The sleepover was so long ago. Also, unfortunately, we turned it on in the morning, and I had to leave before the movie was over. The pictures in my mind are so pleasant that I have never sought out to watch the end. I am fearful that at this point, my expectations are too great.

Yesterday, I took my 3-year old to an amusement park, Hershey Park.

Growing up twenty minutes from Hershey, Pennsylvania aka "The Sweetest Place on Earth" means that I have made innumerable visits to its renowned amusement park in my day.

If you know nothing about Hershey Park, I'll give you a brief history. It is located right next to the historical chocolate factory founded by the enterprising Milton Hershey. It is home of the first roller coaster with a loop in America ... the Super Duper Looper. This blue thrill ride is now one of eleven incredibly fun roller coasters.

In the old days (think teenage years and a pre-baby stomach), roller coasters were the only reason for going to an amusement park. The day was only successful if every decent ride got ridden at least once, and the best ride (the newest) was conquered at least twice.

Occasionally, with meticulous planning and an endurance that could last 10 hours, these park expectations were met and the day was declared great! However, other days were spent amid mass amounts of "tourists" in scorching heat with long, insufferable lines.

You all know what I'm talking about.

As a season ticket holder to Hershey Park for three years, I have had my fair share of great park days. Some of my best memories of home are wrapped up in this park. Thus, you can understand my desire for my daughter to love the park as much as I do. This is fertile soil for great expectations to grow in!

Yet, miraculously, becoming a parent has totally changed my amusement park expectations.

A quick example of this. When I was eighteen, my dad, brother Jordan, and I journeyed to Upper Sandusky, Ohio for a "college visit to Ohio State" and a day at Cedar Point. We arrived at the park as the sun was rising, waited outside for the gates to open and then sprinted with the other early birds to the Millennium Force to experience one of the most exhilarating rides of my life.

Yesterday, we casually strolled in, admired the sweet faux German shops, and snapped Samara's picture next to the sign that indicated that she was a "Hershey Kiss Rider."

My one goal for the day was getting Samara to take her first carousel ride ... and we succeeded. Though she refused to actually sit on a horse, I happily endured her clenched fingers around my neck inside a carriage. Everything after this was a bonus!

This everything included a trip through Zoo America with Uncle Tyler, a spin in the Lady Bug Cups (in which we actually got a smile), playful splashing and swimming in the Wave Pool, and yummy soft serve ice cream with rainbow jimmies. The day concluded with a tour of Chocolate World's simulation of making a chocolate bar.

(Chocolate World only got put on the agenda, because we killed our electric key in the wave pool and daddy was trying to figure out how to best tow our car. Thankfully, we were so Hershey Park Happy that even this killed key couldn't kill our joy.)

Who knew amusement parks had so many options for fun other than roller coasters?

There was no pressure, no agenda, no set of prefabricated expectations. And you know what? The day was great.

Side Note: Samara did take a thirty minute nap. During this time, she hung with Pop and I took a turn on the Sidewinder and Fahrenheit, an oldie and a newbie in Hershey Park's roller coaster repertoire. I did have high expectations for these. Rest assured, these are still great!

Lesson Learned: In fun, yet potentially stressful situations, lower expectations can often make for a more successful day!


  1. Three hours after six phone calls and a tow truck next to the car the key started working, and dad got to ride 4 more roller coasters, praise God! - Mark

    1. You are really good at taking care of details Mark.

  2. I have fond memories of our "Been There, Done That" trip to Six Flags years ago. Pretty sure we spent the whole day on roller coasters!

    1. Do you remember the Superman ride ... we you fly?!?! Still one of the best rides of my life!


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