Waiting for Hogwarts

Image: Sarah Pinault

When it comes to the world of Harry Potter, I have infinite amounts of patience. After moving to the States shortly after reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, I would wait for my British edition of each subsequent book to arrive before reading it. Not only that, I would wait for my mother, a notoriously laborious reader, to finish reading it before mailing it to me. When the movies started coming out on DVD, I did not rush out to buy them on release day, nor did I go out on Black Friday to pick up the $5 discs at Target; no, I waited for the box set. And so it has come to pass that I am eking the stories out to my first born in the same methodical manner.

When he was in the second grade, his teacher was mildly obsessed with the Potter universe. She had a sorting hat and each week the class was sorted into the four different houses. She 3D printed the Hogwarts emblem for their end of year gift. Up until this point he had been peripherally aware of Harry Potter, but now he wanted to dive in. However his desire to read the books was tempered by his knowledge that the movies existed. This is also the story of how I let him break my cardinal rule of reading the book before you see the movie. For his birthday that year, we watched Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

While most of his friends have already seen the entire franchise, for us it has become an annual tradition. Every year on his birthday we watch one more Harry Potter movie. This has many benefits. It is a wonderful mother-son tradition that we get to enjoy each year, certainly, but it also allows me to show him the movies, which do get progressively darker, more in line with his own emotional development. My son is a butter ball of emotion, who did not inherit my first language of sarcasm; he is very literal, and often cannot take a joke. Once you get past Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire your skin needs to be a tad thicker than his was in second grade or even now in fifth.

For his birthday in third grade, we watched Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Then in fourth grade we watched Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. By this point it had become quite the event in his annual calendar, and he was looking forward to it for months ahead of time. There is just something delightful in watching a 9 year old discover this universe, a world in which a letter can send you to a magical boarding school, where an ordinary boy can do extra-ordinary things, and where love and friendship are as vital tools as knowledge and aptitude.

At this point Azkaban was his favorite, but I knew what was coming. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was my favorite of the books and is still my favorite of the movies. While he had been impatient in the run up to Azkaban, I could not wait to get my Goblet on. And so I did what any self-respecting Potter-head would do, ahem. I upped the game. For Christmas last year, he received a Harry Potter wand, a Gryffindor cape, and a ticket to watch the next movie before his next birthday. Best Christmas ever.

Image: Sarah Pinault

Now we have entered fifth grade and the advent of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. It was a wonderful evening, full of questions and discovery, darkness and adventure. Explanations of what a god-father is, no Brando involved, alongside ruminations on whether Cho and Harry were in a relationship. There is a lot of story packed into this movie, that can be hard to pick up on without being armed with the book knowledge. Subtleties that might slip by you. He crawled into my lap when they entered the department of Mysteries. He jumped for joy when the Weasley twins went out in style.

Image: Sarah Pinault

He was beyond excited to learn that his grandparents had met three of the Weasley boys in person, and that I once spied Daniel Radcliffe in London. He has a vague inkling of what is coming next, from the knowledge of his friends, but everything still hits him like a surprise. I remember the joy I had in my early twenties, as each new book would come out, and then the movies. The world of Molly Weasley, Squibs, House Elves, and Longbottoms remains as enchanting to me today as it was then. To see it through the eyes of my ten year old is like seeing it again for the first time, so much joy and magic. I am struck again by the friendship at the heart of the stories. My faith in our abilities to be different and yet work for the same good, restored anew watching the different teaching styles of Dumbledore, Mcgonagall, and Snape.

As we arrived home after viewing the movie at his grandparents house, he pondered aloud that next year he would be turning 11, which is when Harry received his letter from Hogwarts. I commented that he would be getting his then, to which he smiled and replied, “Maybe, Mum, just maybe.”

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