SPOILER: If you haven’t seen the final Harry Potter movie, and plan to, you may want to skip this post
Last night I went to see the final installment in the Harry Potter series, by JK Rowling: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows II. I had hoped to see it with our entire family, but there was no way Pricipessa and Middle Man were going to wait another week for Hubby, Little Man and I to get back from our Yellowstone, Wild West adventure. I can’t blame them; it was hard for me to wait for Little Man to come out of the woods. However, I could not imagine seeing this movie with anyone other than at least one of my children. Like it or not, this movie heralds the end of an era with my children, and a bittersweet end to what has been a magical time as a parent (pun intended folks).
The first Harry Potter book came out when my Middle Man was in 1st grade, at the Valley School in Flint, MI. The series was just taking off at the time and his teacher, Ms. Linda, agreed to let me come in and read the book aloud to the class. JK Rowling had not yet become one of the richest women in the world, and none of us knew how to pronounce Hermione. That, in fact, was a source of much debate amongst Middle Man’s classmates. For the record, I had that one wrong. The kids loved it instantly and I found myself sucked in to this new series for children as well… the twist would come around book three, when JK Rowling gave an interview in which she let readers know that the series was not, in fact, intended for children, but had been written for teens, and would become increasingly “dark” and frightening.
The first four books came out in 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000. Little Man was only a year old when that first book came out and my other two children were only seven and five. My children, have quite literally grown up with Harry Potter and the books and movies have been something we have shared all along. By the time I read that first book the second had just been released. So, when we finished the first, Middle Man’s class and I passionately jumped in to book two, finishing it the last day of school that year. Snow days be damned, we would all have extended the school year to finish that book! I can’t deny that I was as enthusiastic as the kids were and we all agree to not read them outside of our little group, or, when that became unbearable, NO ONE could give anything away, as we read them together. Though I have read aloud in Little Man’s class every year since kindergarten, the Harry Potter books were the start of that tradition, as I’d only read picture books and On the Day You Were Born (each year on each child’s birthday, when I brought in what was then an ok option of homemade cupcakes or cake) up until then.
Book three proved more of a challenge. It was clear by then that the books were taking a decidedly darker turn and Ms. Rowling had by then come out with her warning. Middle Man was in 2nd grade (which sounds like babies to me now!) and their small group (the kids were together each year) was clambering for more. However, we needed to get parental permission for each child, in order to continue. Permission granted, we plowed through that book and like millions of others (for the books had become a sensation by then), we waited anxiously for the new millennium, and more importantly: book four.
In 2001 we moved to Bellingham, WA and The Hobbit was the book to read in Middle Man’s 4th grade class. The Harry Potter series became instead something that Pricipessa, Middle Man and I waited for each year, and read at home. Our family often bought 2 copies of the new releases, as we were all unwilling to share or wait. A gazillionaire by then, JK Rowlings had also given herself a break and was releasing her books every 2 years, something that seemed unbearable at times. However, 2001 was the year the first movie made it’s International debut, and we now had another Potter fix to wait for. We were there as soon as it opened, the whole family: despite any concerns we had about the appropriateness for our then 5 yr old Little Man.
In Bellingham, we had the added thrill of waiting outside our fabulous local bookstore, Village Books, for the midnight releases of the books. Kids would come dressed in wizarding get-ups and wait for ages, to get the freshly pressed books. If you got on a plane, a full third of the passengers seemed to be reading the same Harry Potter book. There were no kindles, and as you walked down the isle (vacation read in hand) you smiled knowingly, part of a tribe.
When that first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, came out, Pricipessa was the same age as the enchanting main character and his best friends. She has grown up alongside them, and I imagine has had her fantasies about having secret powers (oh to turn her mother in to a piggy at times, or be invisible!) and she read each book before the rest of us could open the covers. Reading the final book in 2007, was inconceivable at the time for all of us… waiting for the final movies has helped delay the inevitable.
These books and movies have truly aged with our family, brought magic to our lives. So this wont be a shock (if you know me or have read any of the other posts): I cried more than once while watching the final movie. I missed my children… I missed when they were little and the books and movies carried us away. I missed the sweet little people they were when we started this journey together. I grabbed Little Man’s hand in excitement as the movie took us on our final journey and the fantastic battle between good and evil played itself out. As all of the characters we’ve loved for so many years finished their journeys and we followed along, one last time. I cried openly when Harry’s mother says: “We have never left you”… the child in me believing that this is true for us all and that my father (who was killed when I was 10) is still there. I believe the beloved Dumbledore when he tells Harry: “Of course it’s all happening in your head, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t real.”
I felt my other two children, now nearly adults like Harry, Ron and Hermione, right there beside us. I called them as soon as we finished. It has been twelve years of magic, thrills and joy with Harry Potter and and my family, it is bittersweet to see it end. In my head, my kids are still little people who believe (nearly) everything I say and believe mommy can fix or do anything. While they, like Harry have grown up and moved on, just because it’s happening in my head, doesn’t mean it isn’t real… the magic will linger on for a while I think.
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