Yes, me too. From the very beginning, until the very end. Always.
Because, from the beginning,
When I was very small I slept in a tall, iron-framed bed, next to the upstairs front window in our big, drafty house that creaked in the night. When it was time for the lights to be turned out, time to go to sleep, sometimes I would be afraid of the creaking, the cavernous room, the dark. And my slip of a mother, who had crawled into bed with me to read Wynken, Blynken and Nod, or Archie and Mehitibel, or A Child’s Garden of Verses, would tell me to imagine that I was inside a silver bubble of light, that the light would protect me, that the light was everything good. And then I would drift to sleep, safe.
That this was a sort of protective spell didn’t occur to me until I was pregnant and reading Harry Potter for the first time. That Harry’s invisible shield was cast from his mother’s fierce love required not an ounce of suspended disbelief, because it matched my experience exactly. Here is just one example:
During those fairy tale years when I was very small, I had an occasional playmate who lived down the street with her grandmother. We always played at my house, not hers, though not for lack of invitation. One day the girl and her grandmother knocked on our door and asked please please please couldn’t I come play at her house because her father was home and he’d brought her a toy and couldn’t I please come there to play. My mother, who was nothing if not polite, gave reluctant permission, said she needed to run to the post office or grocery, and sent me on my way down the sidewalk.
I remember playing in the girl’s room with dolls. I remember that the house smelled old. I remember that I was wearing what I always wore, a smocked dress and Mary Jane style shoes. I remember stepping carefully, in those shoes, up the dark, narrow stairs to the dark, musty attic where the man who said I was a pretty little girl sat in his chair. And I remember being right at the top of those stairs and feeling afraid and wishing I could conjure a silver bubble, when suddenly the miracle of my mother’s voice came from the doorway below. The miracle of my mother, who appeared out of nowhere, telling me to get right back down those stairs, right this very minute, just in the nick of time.
Scenes like this one would play out from my earliest years well into my early 30s. When my flight was delayed and I was stranded in the Newark airport after midnight with no money and no ride back to school. When I woke in the middle of the night with 102° fever, alone in a hotel in Berlin. At the oddest, most unexpected times, my mother would magically appear, sometimes in person, sometimes by phone.
The first time I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, I thought I understood very clearly that it was an epic love story because I understood very clearly that kind of protection.
The second time I read Harry Potter, aloud to my six-year-old son in the winter of 2007, snuggled in the same tall wrought-iron-framed bed from my childhood, I brought something new to the story, and the story did the same for me. In the six-and-a-half years since first meeting the boy who lived, I had walked through the portal of motherhood, walked into a world once only imagined and now my entire frame of reality. Now I was to be the caster of spells, the creator of magic silver bubbles.
In that quest, in that second reading, I was mesmerized not by Lily Potter but by the idea of Jo Rowling – mother, daughter, weaver of things real and imagined – frantically writing on that train, guided by an inexplicable urge to create something, bold enough to say: here it is world; have at it.
By the time I was again reading that first Harry Potter book, aloud, to my son, I had myself made it all the way through to the fifth book, through the horror of Delores Umbridge and the unimaginable losses of Cedric Diggory and Sirius Black. I had cheered and wept, reading alone in my bed, late at night. Those books took me, temporarily, into another world. I could not wait to discover where the story would go next, could not wait until I had the time and energy to devour the final two installments, could not wait to be inspired again to believe in magic, belief I had given up almost entirely.
The third time around, and all the times after that, Harry Potter and I met not on pages but on screen, sometimes in the theater and sometimes in our living room, often on Christmas afternoons, and always in the full company of my little family. Together we wept for Dobby and cheered for Neville and pondered the enigma of Severus Snape. We talked about honor and courage and loyalty, about what it means to be a friend. About how words and pictures and music can channel feelings, give them shape and sound and meaning. About how the world is crazy and cruel and beautiful and wonderful. About how we create our own magic.
Each time we bring something new to the story, and the story does the same for us. Each and every time I feel the soft comfort of my mother, the thrill of weaving a magical tale, the agony of teenage awkwardness, the victory of courage, the hollowness of loss, the pull of indescribable longing, the flood of every kind of love. Complex, unfolding, expanding.