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