Tomorrow, Kid1 will be taking Kid2 and me to see Harry Potter 7 Part 2, his treat. This is such a bitter-sweet experience for me and I’m not sure I could ever truly articulate why. But I am going to try anyway.
10 years ago, on opening night, I took Kid1 to see the first Harry Potter movie. Kid2 was not yet old enough. And if my memory is serving me correctly, it was the first movie I had taken him to see in the theatre. We arrived at the theatre a couple hours before curtain, waiting in a huddled mass with loads of other people.
It wasn’t until Harry Potter mania had started to build around the first movie that I read the first two books. I had heard the name in the media and how it was supposedly the next best thing since sliced bread, but it wasn’t a ‘thing’ in my small town. I knew no-one who had read the books or even cared to. The third and fourth books were already published as well, but I wasn’t going to purchase any of them until I had read the first two books, which were given to me to read by my mother.
I had decided to read them first, alone, in order to decide if this was even something my children would enjoy and to help me decide if it would be appropriate to bring my then 6-year-old child to see. I was immediately hooked.
It wasn’t because it was a great work of fiction. The books are not exactly literary works of art. But they were magic nonetheless. When I would talk with other adults who had read them, they would complain about how childish and simply written they were. Without trying to show my anger and snobbishness, I would politely try to remind them that is because they are children books. They are suppose to be written that way. Heated debates would begin, which went something like, “When we were children, we read Lord of the Rings in grade school. Those are considered children’s books. Is this the best authors can come up with now for youth?” I would smile and say, “Ah, yes. But we also had The Secret World of Og and Charlotte’s Web. Those are considered great classics and cannot be compared to Lord of the Rings.” But I digress. I suppose the main thing my friends had an issue with is that I, someone who can be quite a snob at times, adored Harry Potter. But as I already said, there was magic in them.
I can’t even begin to go into every thing I ended up taking away from the story when I would sit down and read each book. That would require a novel in itself. But outside of the emotional and personal journey these books took me on, these journeys were shared with my boys.
After I finally finished the first two books, I sat down with Kid1 and read them to him in preparation for the movie. I will never forget how freaked out he got when I would do the voices for the basilisk in the walls. One time, I made him cry and he begged me to stop using that voice when I read and instead, to use my normal voice.
These moments were wonderful. We would be curled up on the couch, under the blankets, as I painted the story of Harry Potter within my child’s brain to see. There were many nights of, “Oh, mum. Just one more chapter. PLEEEEEASE!” I would give in, only for the next, “PLEEEEASE, one more chapter. I promise, I’ll go to bed when you are done.”
These stories also were the cause of many wonderful talks about how to treat others, about what is fair and isn’t, about never giving up no matter what you are facing and more. These stories caused us to cry together, laugh together, get angry together, cheer together and mourn together.
After the successful indoctrination into the Harry Potter world after the first two books and the first movie, Harry Potter and his friends became a regular fixture in our household. I immediately purchased the next two books. As Kid2 got older, I would later read the books with him and watch the movies with him. Soon, Kid2 was old enough where when a movie was released or a book was released, all three of us were waiting in line together, reading them together, watching them together, talking about them together, crying together, laughing together, getting angry together, cheering together and mourning together. The exception to this is Harry Potter 7 Part 1, which Kid1 took Kid2 to see, his treat, just the two of them, as some brother bonding thing.
(No, I’m not bitter about that. I think it is sweet that the older brother wanted to take the younger brother on a bro date… Well, maybe I’m a little bit bitter.)
Harry Potter was also the source of many games. We fashioned our own wands made out of bamboo and would have wand duels in the backyard or on hikes. For years, I’ve been accused of having the ability to apparate because I suddenly appear in the same room with them and they didn’t see or hear me coming. That is when I would have to remind them that if I could in fact apparate, there’d be a definite cracking noise every time I did.
For 10 years, Harry Potter has been a permanent fixture in our household. My boys and I have grown-up together, alongside Harry.
And now, Kid1 is old enough where he is taking both his brother and me to see the final installment tomorrow. We have come full circle. It is really bitter-sweet. Thinking about how much we have grown together and have bonded together in the last 10 years, all thanks to Harry Potter, and thinking about how it is about to come to its final end is causing me to weep.
10 years is a long time to share something with anyone, especially your children. Out of every one I know, most families still have young children. It has only been in the last couple of years that they’ve poured all things Harry Potter down their throats. Some of my friends’ children are still too young and it will be a few more years before they introduce them to Harry Potter. And when they do, it will probably be in one large dose, instead of a constant stream of sharing and learning more about Harry and his friends.
I don’t know what I’m going to do now that it is done. Both my boys are really excited about tomorrow but they are also both sad. The entire household is in some weird state of mourning at the moment. Yes, for the hardcore fans, there is Pottermore and talk of other things. But, for this house, Harry Potter isn’t about JK Rowling or witches and wizards or being geeky or a fan-culture things. If nobody else in the world loved Harry Potter, we wouldn’t care because that does not diminish the experiences we had, thanks to these stories, over the last 10 years.
We will still continue to talk about Harry Potter. We will probably still continue to re-read and re-watch the movies together. But I am going to miss the shared anticipation and the newness of it all, this sense of complete joy and excitement that we are about to embark on the next installment of the journey, together.
And there is so much more. But I’m just way too sad and happy right now to even begin to express it all. I think I’m beginning to write and talk in circles.
Anyway, thank you JK Rowling for writing these books and giving something constant that my boys and I could look forward to together. Thank you for giving something to share, something we could rely on and escape into together when other things in our lives were crazy and scary. Thank you for allowing us to create our own magic in our family. Thank you for this gift.