This is not the Harry Potter post I was going to write…

Last night, I sat in the driveway in my car and cried.

It wasn’t because my husband wouldn’t go to Harry Potter with me . I could understand that – he doesn’t have the connection I have to the material, hasn’t read the books. My friends, well, I didn’t want to go with them.

Reading Harry Potter was one of the most meaningful experiences of my kids’ lives – and of mine, yet it all began so gently, so quietly, snuggled under warm blankets, opening the cover of a book.

I read the first book aloud for weeks – those are LONG books! – Max, then 12, and Katie, 10, lay in bed, listening, separated by a wall, into which my husband had cut a small window. Normally, I’d read bedtime stories until my children’s eyes (and mine) began to close, then tiptoe from the room. But with this book… no one was falling asleep. We were riveted.

Just getting to school was an adventure –

First, you had to get supplies – a magic wand, a proper cape, an owl, and text books like The Monster Book of Monsters (which might just bite your fingers). There was only one place to buy them – Diagon Alley, hidden between the particles of normal life in London.

Then, you had to find the train… Though it left from Kings Cross Station, its track – Platform 9 3/4 – was completely invisible to “‘muggles’ (non-magical people), and was only accessible by walking briskly, straight into a wall. Once aboard the Hogwarts Express, my children and I encountered chocolate frogs that might leap out the window, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans that might delight or might, one never knew, taste like dirt (or ugh, even vomit!)

But the real treat of that first trip to wizarding school were the other young wizards: especially Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger – loyal, honest, funny and smart – these were the kinds of friends I wanted my own kids to have.

I was enchanted – anticipating the release of each new volume just as much as they did. Every year or so, a new book would appear. We’d sit together on the front steps awaiting the Fedex truck that would deliver two (yes, I ordered two) copies.

As they grew older, the story grew darker and I worried that the scary parts might upset them. “This next part is a little scary,” I’d warn them. “Be prepared.” But they didn’t seem to mind. If anything, I was the one who had nightmares as the series moved from ‘children’s’ book to outright terrifying.

Book four arrived on the morning we were leaving for a summer vacation with friends.

We waited for the FedEx truck missing a ferry so we could bring the book along. It was no surprise that the other kids we were vacationing with – five 14-year-olds, and two of 16 – had arrived with their copies, too. For four days, they read: sprawled on sofas and scatter rugs and beach towels, the ocean all but abandoned in favor of Quidditch matches and Divination Class.

Each time one of the kids put down their copy, I grabbed it. “Don’t tell me anything!” I warned. “Don’t even talk about it in secret brother-sister code!” They waited until the last person had finished the book. Then, they sat on the deck in the dark, reviewing every detail.

We got book five at Barnes and Noble… at midnight. Here’s that moment, as captured in my journal:

We arrive at 9:00 p.m., to stake our our claim. Katie and Max join the line—already snaking out the door. By 11:00, there are hundreds of teens, sprawled on the floor talking, texting and taking turns running to the café for Frappuccino. Just before midnight, the cartons are cracked open and a cheer goes up as the kids press forward. As always, we buy two copies.

I know the world of Harry Potter isn’t real – but that story penetrated our family life for years. It was magic.

There were debates over dinner: Was Professor Snape was really as wicked as Harry thought he was?  Which young wizard was J.K.Rowling going to sacrifice in book four? Oh, please not Hermione or Ron!

And these videos were really funny.

I don’t remember how we acquired the last two books in the series. But I do remember the feeling I had when I closed the cover on the seventh volume. Something important had ended – and it wasn’t just a book.

So, last night, as I headed out to the car to see the last movie in the Harry Potter series, there were only two people I wanted beside me in that theater – my children.

But of course, they aren’t children any more: Max, now 23, is spending the summer at school, working two restaurant jobs, taking extra classes so he can graduate in December. Katie, 20, had driven to New York to see the film with friends.

That’s why I wept: because I wanted to see the last Harry Potter with people who didn’t exist any more – the 16-year-old girl with a photographic memory who committed the ENTIRE fourth book to memory. The 14-year-old future filmmaker who sat with me at the midnight showing of the first film, seething with outrage: “It’s like they didn’t even read the book!” The teenage boy who disdained reading but somehow couldn’t put any of the 400-page books down.

Writing this, my eyes fill again.

I sat in the driveway with the car door open, my feet on the blacktop, tears streaming down my cheeks. Just me, wishing for something… magical… something that couldn’t happen.

It was then that my daughter drove up. “What’s wrong, Mommy?” she asked. She’s so tall now – and so beautiful, browned by the sun, her long blonde hair framing the beach glass green eyes that used to stop strangers on the street.

“I don’t have anyone to see Harry Potter with,” I said, in a sniffly sort of way.

She smiled. “I will see Harry Potter with you, Mommy,” she said. “It was that good!” But she warned me, “It’s very very sad. Be prepared.”

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Showing 37 comments
  • Tammy

    Having never seen nor read the series, I can still imagine this entire scenario played out through the yrs. and it made my smile. Children are such blessings and they just keep getting better as they grow! i am glad you got to go with your daughter and actually…you have piqued my curiosity!

  • Barbara Newman

    It was a magical time … fondly remembering my children begging for ” one more chapter, Mom, please…” I always said yes.

  • Dawn Waldron

    Amy, we are united in this. I feel what you feel here. My daughter is the reflection in my mirror of Erised. If I had a magic wand I would wish to hold her as a baby and see her as a woman at the same time. Sometimes I don’t think I can bear it. And then I can. It’s seems a strange thing to admit, but Harry Potter added something profoundly precious to my life. And hers. x

  • blogomomma

    Ahhh … A love / hate relationship unlike any other – the one we have with time. Too bad those wands don’t really work!

    Great post!

  • Evonne

    This post brought tears to me eyes, for a few reasons. I can tell just by reading this that you have a beautiful relationship with your children.

    My daughter and I are Harry Potter fanatics, but in our own ways. When she finished one book, all she had to do is go to the bookshelf and grab the next. I was the one waiting for them to come to the store.

    It was a beautiful thing to be able to see the final movie with her. I did almost cry when it first started because this is it for Harry and his friends. Future generations will continue to love him, but that love won’t be the same as those of us who read it first.

  • Jamie

    I think it’s the time of year, too…over the past week, I’ve been remembering those years, mystified that they’ve already passed: the lunchtime yoga classes, the trips to the kabbalah workshops in NYC, the lunches in “town.” Remember those?

  • jo miller

    You captured all of ‘it’ well, all of you. Cheers to all who cherish the magical moments ~ xo

  • katie oscar

    …its the third one that i know by heart. Harry potter of number four private drive was a very unusual boy in many ways- for one thing he hated the summer holidays more than any other time of year- for another- he really wanted to do his homework but was forced to do it in secret in the dead of night. and he also happened to be a wizard.

    …Molly P and i stood on a subway platform the other month and realized that we are the generation of harry potter. no one will ever read harry potter the way we did. we read it one book at a time, waiting for the next one and the next. When i began reading the first two were out, i waited for the third, waited for the fourth ect.

    When i see kids reading them now they read them in one year, book after book.
    We had years of in between time while the stories brewed inside us. And we were perfectly matched in age to the characters.

    …Do you remember my fear of Lurking bad guys? It started with the fourth book of harry potter- the scene where harry wanders away into the mist and hears someone walking and then hears someone mutter and then suddenly the dark mark is conjured over the field and the one who did it is standing just feet away from him in the mist.

    I told you not to read parts like that at bedtime.

    i dont mind voldemort at bedtime. i dont mind the cruciatus curse or professor umbridge. But i mind shadows in the dark, something that might be there, but where and who?
    i felt this for the first time with harry potter. and was taught it again in film school, its called suspense. Its called lurking bad guys.

    Harry Potter taught me how to feel a story. it is my story, and my generations story. we are the generation of harry potter. no joke. Its upsetting that the movies suck so much. i will remake them. just wait. it will be a mini series and i will include S.P.E.W and PEEVES and CHARLIE WEASLEY and THE MUGGLE PRIME MINISTER and i will explain all of fred and georges tricks.

    anyway. lalala
    i love you.

    • Amy

      lalala I love you, too. 🙂

  • Reply

    What a fantastic post. You’ve got a wonderful daughter.

    My son is just turning six next month, and my husband recently started reading Harry Potter aloud with him. We have a magical future ahead of us, too.

  • Erin

    I just found your blog and I’m riveted! This story brought tears to my eyes. I can’t wait until my kids are old enough to read Harry Potter with me!

    • Amy

      Read it slowly… so much happens between books. Enjoy the ride…

  • kelly

    Oh, yes, it was the same with me and my daughter, my sons, not so much. But that magic, those connections, those little day-to-day things, those are things you miss most.
    I would have gone with you. 🙂

    • Amy

      Oh, wouldn’t it be lovely to go to a film together. I see us all convening in a forest – called from all of our Twitter portals. Whoosh, we disapparate (a Harry Potter word) from our desks and cafe tables and arrive. A circle forms… if you are in it, you know who you are. 🙂

  • Karen

    you just summed up how I felt except I don’t have the kids old enough to take and I went with one of my best friends, but I too cried with the end of an era

  • Jason Ramsey

    Thank you for sharing. I have a lot of the same thoughts and feelings. I don’t think people who aren’t into it fully realize what has been going on in a huge part of the world for the past thirteen years. I imagine it like my parents watching the Beatles break up, or a two term president going out of office.

    • Amy

      Kind of mirrors the story, doesn’t it? All of this magic going on in the middle of the muggle world and no one knows but the initiates.

  • Reply

    oh. my heart.

  • Sally

    I so want to write a comment about the sheer emotional impact of this post ~ and am nervous to do so because this is one of those posts where Words simply don’t seem adequate to capture the feelings I desire to express.

    Can one possibly measure the significant influence J. K. Rowling had on children’s literacy? As you noted, children who didn’t even like to READ got lost in the magical wonder of Harry Potter.

    I so loved ‘living’ this experience with you through this post. Like Jeanne (in a comment above me) ~ my tears began splashing with yours … and I didn’t even read the entire series, or get caught up in the phenomenon – but the sense of the Sacred within it all is very palpable to me.

    So ~ I’ll leave with a great big Thank You for this beautiful, sacred moment in my day (for I, too, can relate to the yearning for what’s passed while accepting that this must be so) … and also, this:

    If you look at Harry Potter as an Anagram … you can find the words Prayer Troth.

    Prayer ~ a form of communication, a way of talking to God or to the Angels and all things Divine.

    Troth ~ faithfulness, loyalty, truth.

    In this respect, Harry Potter is such an integral part of your own Essence ~ it’s no wonder your feelings run oh so deep …

    • Amy

      Ah, my. Thank you my friend. That anagram just whooshed through me and zap, bullseye to the heart.

  • Pamela

    no question, you’ve raised a daughter who will be in your life forever… I love it when they catch us being vulnerable and give back what they got 🙂

  • Ruud hein

    [smiles] you said it right. You said it all — right.

    Thanks 🙂

  • Marthe

    Oh, this post gives me a really heavy heart. But in a good way. You’re lucky to have such wonderful memories.

    I didn’t really share my reading experience with anyone, the way you did. But I can look back and realise that reading Harry Potter is the reason why I am near fluent in English, something that has opened so many doors and changed my whole life.

    • Amy

      I love this comment so much. A completely different kind of magic happened here! 🙂

  • Kathi Instone

    My children were already adults when book one came out. In fact it was my daughter in law who introduced me to Harry and was my “Harry Potter buddy”. Now, 2 grandchildren later, I hope one day I will have the pleasure of sharing that world with them.
    Beautiful post Amy.

  • wholly jeanne

    yes. yes. yes. my tears splash into yours.
    this is the hard part of mothering.

    • Amy

      And the juicy and heartbreakingly beautiful part, as well. #Excruciatus and yet… such love.

  • Fiona Leonard

    Thank goodness! I thought it was just me! I sat down last week to write my Harry Potter post ( and by the end of it I was crying (very quietly in case anyone heard and asked why on earth I was sitting at the computer sobbing!)

    I still haven’t seen it – going tomorrow. I will take tissues and be sad that such a huge part of our lives is over.

  • Lindsey

    I’m in the midst of #5 with my daughter right now, having worked our way through the first four … I had tears running down my face reading this. I know this is such a short, rich time. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Jeannine LeBouthillier

    Your writing touches me everytime Amy! Thank you for speaking and sharing from your heart. You have an incredible gift for connecting with others with your words…please keep writing 🙂

    With much gratitude,

  • Melanie

    Jeez, you have me weeping now too.

  • Loran

    I had a similar experience with my kids, as they grew up so did the Hogwarts kids. It has been an incredible journey for all of us fans!

  • Allison Nazarian

    Beautiful. So bittersweet, watching them grow and grow away.

  • Susan S

    I just read your blog on Elissa’s facebook page link. It brought tears to my eyes as I sit here with my 14-year old who despite promises to see it with me, is off to the theatre with a bunch friends to see the film. Amazing how many of our kids grew up on the series … and how many of us grew up, as parents, through withJK Rowling, as well. Thanks for sharing your piece.
    Susan S

  • Suzan

    Thank you for putting into words what I felt, but couldn’t convey. I’m sure there are SO many moms out there who are feeling the exact same way. Harry Potter an my kiddos…I’ll miss those days : )

  • Susan

    I often look at pictures of my daughters when they were young and miss “those” girls. No one ever warned me about that one….

    Beautiful post. I would have gone and seen it with you, too. xo

  • mrswhich

    You brought just tears to my eyes.

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