Growing up with Harry Potter
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!
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 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.”