In just 30 pages, I will have finished the epic that is the Harry Potter series. My son and I started it in July, a week after his cousin had read him a chapter at a beach cottage and two days before my son ended up breaking his leg.
We did a lot of reading this summer.
I read to him while his leg was propped up. We listened to audio books en route to appointments. We watched each film after we’d finished the novel. It didn’t take me long to go from my pre-reading “don’t buy the hype” eye-rolling to a total kool-aid-drinker. The books are totally fun to read out loud, a delight to hear Jim Dale read, and super fun to see enacted in film.
I cannot imagine what it must have been like to read these books just one at a time and have no earthly idea how it would all turn out. I didn’t know much, but I had seen a few scenes of films that my nieces had watched over the year, and my sister, upon finishing the series, shared some insights with me. I couldn’t remember the details, but I remember that I was putting away clothes in my son’s room when she shared, with my spoiler-alert permission, because reading these books seemed so far into the future.
This half-remembered knowledge has stayed with me as I’ve read, but it was about the very ending of the book where I am now, and I’m still not totally sure how it will pan out. I’ve also been given some specific spoiler alerts direct from my son, who has read ahead of me, waiting with each book for me to catch up before he can move on to the next. That has often included re-reading part of the books with me out loud or listening to the audio after he’s already sat for hours hunched over the same passages.
Some of the intel I’ve had has been welcome; it’s been a relief to know what is coming and has even enhanced my anticipation. Just the other day, Amy of Teach Mama posted on her Facebook feed a post about Snape’s first words to Harry that I didn’t even finish reading because it hinted at something I had no idea was coming. There were only 400 books left in the series, I thought, what the heck is this about? I didn’t want to know too much. But when I finally came upon the information in black and white, I think it was almost a little sweeter because I had had a short peek.
When I posted a month or two before that asking to borrow Goblet of Fire, which the library was out of, one friend warned of its darkness and urged a re-reading of the previous book. Another friend offered to let me borrow the remaining for books. Every time I pick up the book, I think of her reading them years ago, and I think of the other people who have encountered these words.
When my son decided he wanted to be Ron Weasley for Halloween and I cast about on FB to borrow a robe, I was astounded how many people had them. And how many of those wanted to keep them around to maybe wear again.
If ever I thought, “I want to be where the people are,” I got my wish when I started reading this series.
A month or two ago, another friend posted on Facebook something that J.K. Rowling tweeted about it being the year that one of the character’s progeny would be starting at Hogwarts. Even knowing that fictional future tidbit has shaped my reading as we’ve gone through the remaining four books. Thanks to my spill-the-beans kiddo, I know more about that progeny now – who both parents are, and who else hooks up – but I still don’t know how that all becomes possible given the mess they are all in right now.
So here I am, trying to decide if I sit and watch 30 Rock with my husband or if I sit with the final 30 pages of the entire HP series. It’s one of those things I don’t want to be over and yet I cannot wait to see how it all turns out.
Also, my son is playing Hedwig’s Theme so damn often on the piano, I feel somehow like completing the series will make it stop seeming so haunting and feel more like the soundtrack of a conquest.
I want to talk to my son about it all. I want to call my sister and talk about how it occurred to her years ago and how it has influenced her and her children since. I want to sit with the ideas and journal about the past, about destiny vs. choice and free will; about identity and one’s place in the world as determined by self or by others; about the importance of connection and depending on other people, accepting help and taking responsibility; about compassion vs. self-preservation.
It’s rich, people. I am a believer. As a writer, I’m so excited for J.K. Rowling that she had this in her head and was able to somehow plot it all out, get it all written, and have it recognized for the gem it is. I haven’t read much about her so maybe I’m full of it, but she really makes it seem like she had fun creating this epic.
I imagine her knowing on one hand that this was a crapload of time and energy to spend on something that, if the right person didn’t “get” it, might never come to light, but I imagine at the same time that she somehow knew, “This kicks ass and there is no way it is not going to transform lives.”
I have been pretty much way outside the mainstream for a decade at least since I quit teaching in February 2006 before the birth of my son; I have many articles of clothing that are older than said son. It’s fun to be part of one conversation that has engaged so many people. It’s been years since I watched Grey’s Anatomy (see above about being totally out of the loop) but loved it when I heard creator and producer Shonda Rhimes on NPR recently saying something to the effect of “Of course I have help with my children. I work. I can’t possibly be in two places at the same time. I’m not Hermione Granger with a time-turner.” The mother, writer and reader in me all high-fived one another. Ain’t it the truth.
I just followed Shonda Rhimes on Twitter, where her description begins, “I make stuff up for a living.” How cool is that?
I’m now following her and J.K. Rowling, my first forays into fangirling. For a long time, I haven’t even known who I might want to fangirl. Well, maybe Cheryl Strayed, but that’s a little more PG-13. My son knows who she is, but it’s different to be engaged in a conversation that is familiar to almost everyone between the ages of 9 and 29.
It’s fascinating to think of Rowling and Rhimes, to imagine being such a creative force in the cultural zeitgeist. Having lived on the periphery in so many ways, I’m excited to at least understand something about it. Enough to be a participant.
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