Growing up with Harry Potter

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

It wasn’t because my husband wouldn’t go to the new Harry Potter movie with me. He hasn’t read the books – and doesn’t feel the connection to the magical world of muggles and magic. It wasn’t because my friends wouldn’t go with me – they would. I didn’t want them to.

I wanted to go with my children.

I read the first book aloud. Max was 12 and Katie, 10. They lay in bed, listening, separated by the wall into which my husband had cut a small window. Unlike other bedtime stories which I’d read until the children nodded off to sleep, this book was riveting!

It was right up my alley – with magic and mystery. There were wands and messenger owls and strange textbooks which might just bite your fingers. And the only place where you could buy it all: Diagon Alley, hidden between the particles of normal life in London.

There was a train which was only accessible by walking straight into a wall. It came in on Platform 9 3/4 – completely invisible to “‘muggles’ (non-magical people). And chocolate frogs that might leap out the window.

Still, the most captivating part of wizarding school was the other young wizards: Hermione, Ron and Harry.

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 warned, “This next part is a little scary.  Be prepared.” Undaunted, my kids urged, “Just read!” 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 missed the first ferry waiting for the FedEx truck. The other kids we were vacationing with – seven 14 and 16-year-olds – each had their own copies, too, and for four days, everyone read: sprawled on sofas and beach towels, abandoning the ocean in favor of Quidditch matches and Divination Class.

“Don’t tell me anything!” I warned, as I waited for my turn to read. “Don’t even talk about it in secret brother-sister code!” When the last friend had finished the book, they gathered on the deck in the dark, reviewing every detail. (I was indoors, snuggled beneath a blanket with the book – the amazing book!)

Book five. Barnes and Noble. Midnight.

We arrived at 9:00 p.m. Max and Katie joined the checkout line, which was already snaking out the door. By 11:00, there were hundreds of teens sprawled on the floor. Talking, texting and taking turns running to the café for Frappuccino, they waited until, just before midnight, the cartons were cracked open and, with a cheer, the magic was finally here.

Now, 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 already seen the film with friends.

When she told me, tears filled my eyes – for I’d realized: I want to see the last Harry Potter with people who don’t exist any more.

The 14-year-old future filmmaker who’d committed the entire fourth volume to memory – and 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 churned his way right through each 400-page tome, with glee.

That’s why I cried – why I sat in the driveway with the car door open and my feet on the blacktop, with tears streaming down my cheeks.

Which is how my daughter found me when she 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 beach-glass-green eyes.

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

She smiled at me then, and put her hand on my shoulder. “I’ll go with you, Mommy,” she said. “I’ll see it again.” But then she warned me, “It’s very very sad. Be prepared.”

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Showing 37 comments
  • Tammy
    Reply

    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
    Reply

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

  • Dawn Waldron
    Reply

    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
    Reply

    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
    Reply

    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
    Reply

    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
    Reply

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

  • katie oscar
    Reply

    …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
      Reply

      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
    Reply

    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
      Reply

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

  • kelly
    Reply

    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
      Reply

      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
    Reply

    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
    Reply

    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
      Reply

      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
    Reply

    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
      Reply

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

  • Pamela
    Reply

    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
    Reply

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

    Thanks 🙂

  • Marthe
    Reply

    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
      Reply

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

  • Kathi Instone
    Reply

    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
    Reply

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

    • Amy
      Reply

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

  • Fiona Leonard
    Reply

    Thank goodness! I thought it was just me! I sat down last week to write my Harry Potter post (http://www.fionaleonard.net/2011/07/what-jk-rowling-said-when-she-called.html) 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
    Reply

    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
    Reply

    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,
    Jeannine

  • Melanie
    Reply

    Jeez, you have me weeping now too.

  • Loran
    Reply

    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
    Reply

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

  • Susan S
    Reply

    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
    Reply

    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
    Reply

    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
    Reply

    You brought just tears to my eyes.

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