Forgive me in advance if my thoughts are a little jumbled, but tonight was the end of an era.
My daughter and I watched the final Harry Potter film together. No longer is will she read any line in any of the seven books for the first time. She has now seen those words realized in a movie for the inaugural time. Every time now she thinks of Harry Potter, this will be one of the memories, and I am privileged to share it with her.
My daughter is just 10 years old, but started on the books a couple years ago. I tried to pace her along, trying to gauge when she was ready for the more mature subjects the latter books tread upon. Eventually, I gave in and let her read the final two books when she told me some of her classmates were giving her details about the final two novels. She was ready for them anyway, but I guess there was a bit of me where I felt as if I was rushing her.
Maybe the truth was that I was rushing myself.
I experienced the Harry Potter phenomenon first hand. I can still remember when I was a sophomore in college and was walking around a Best Buy store, looking for something cool to take back to my dorm room. Chances that I would find a compact disc were pretty high, but I stumbled on a book rack. I honestly have no idea if Best Buy made much money off of books, but one book jumped out at me.
It was a hardback of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I knew nothing about the book, the series, nothing. This was in early-Internet days, so remember Tumblr and Twitter didn’t exist yet. I bought it on sight, only to realize I had purchased the second book in the series. No matter – I loved it anyway.
I quickly found the first book (in paperback, unfortunately), and subsequently got each of the rest on the release dates.
I remember when the fourth book came out, I had it on preorder at my local store, but was going on vacation the day it was to be released. Just a couple days before my wife and I left for Williamsburg, Virginia, I was at the town library where the librarian had it just sitting out. A WEEK BEFORE THE MIDNGIHT RELEASE. I sneakily checked it out, but then was berated all y my wife during vacation for reading the book before it had even been released. I didn’t care. It was glorious.
When the final book came out, I read it straight through, beaming and agonizing the entire way. I didn’t know if I would feel like that about a book ever again.
Then my daughter learned to read.
It was a few years before she was able to read Harry Potter, and a little while longer before she wanted to, but when she finally dove in, she was just as enamored as I was. I heard from her along the way, asking questions about this character or that. Cursing (the way a 5th grader who isn’t allowed to cuss can) Professor Snape, only to see him for what he was in the end. I realized I was reliving it through her. I was able to pass it down, but just as Voldemort left a piece of himself in Harry (spoiler alert!), I found a piece of myself was there when I was reliving the memories with my daughter.
A couple months ago, she was reading the sixth book and told me about her favorite character. I kept my poker face, but I immediately despaired. I knew the fate of that character. I knew they were destined to die in the Battle of Hogwarts and there was nothing I could do about that. Was she really ready? There was no backing out at this point. She was too far in to give up now.
Ultimately, she handled it wonderfully, but I was sitting on the couch tearing up with the passing of each casualty in the halls of Hogwarts. I found myself feeling. I found…my younger self.
Harry Potter is a special book series and I was glad to share it with my daughter. But that time has passed. We will enjoy new and different books and movies together down the road, but we’ll always have Harry, Hermoine, Ron, Neville, and the rest of the many wonderful characters created by J.K. Rowling.
The whole experience made me think of our connections to books and how many of them we see feel connected to from our childhood. Obviously if we could all write like J.K. Rowling, then this would be a moot point, but the characters made the story. Get connected to the characters and the story will follow. Tell your characters’ stories and your audience will follow. I think my daughter would agree, after being so attached to the Harry Potter and his friends for the last few years.
So…I’ll be depressed for a while, but then I remembered…my son is learning to read. Check back in a few years after I do this all over again.