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Saying Good-Bye to Harry

In the fall of 2000, I met Harry Potter for the first time. I had been hearing about him from friends and in the paper, but had not taken the time to get acquainted personally. When I finally got a copy from the library, it didn’t take me long to become completely sucked into the world of wizards and muggles. And it didn’t take my then-6 year old long to wonder why mom was holing herself up with a book instead of playing dinosaurs with him.

“Read it to me,” he said.

By that time I was an experienced enough mom to know the quickest way to get rid of him was to simply read it to him. I figured a few paragraphs describing the shack Harry and the Dursleys hiding in and my little guy would wander off back to his dinosaurs leaving me able to read guilt-free. But a few paragraphs later, he was hooked. I had to go back to the beginning and start over. To my amazement, he sat listening intently to the entire first chapter and then begged for another.

And so began a nightly ritual of a chapter (or two or “Well, I guess we have time for a third”) each night. We loved Harry. Reading ahead was expressly forbidden (although I sometimes cheated). We were so crazy about Harry that even Dad got pulled into the books.

When the first Harry Potter movie came out, there was no question that we had to see it. And we had to see it the first night it was out. The very first showing.  At midnight. My son and his two best friends were eight years old. They were beside themselves with excitement. I had gone to Lexington days ahead of time to get the tickets when they first went on sale. (Okay, so maybe I was excited also.) That night at the theater, they were the youngest ones there. And they loved it.

We knew this was just the beginning of a long movie franchise. The boys excitedly promised each other they would see all the movies together and always on opening night. I smiled at them and said, “We’ll see.”

Over the years we have been to mid-night book releases and Harry Potter parties at libraries and bookstores. We made several of the opening nights, but not all. The latter movies he saw with just friends and not mom. Over the years those three boys have grown and changed, attended different schools. The friendships have waxed and waned as friendships will do. So much has happened through the past ten years.  Death, sadness and challenges were experienced personally and not just in the pages of the latest Harry Potter book.

And now my 6-year old is nearly 17.  We sat last night discussing plans for seeing the last Harry Potter movie.  And out of the blue I started crying.  All these years later I am so grateful for the gifts Harry has given us- wonderful memories of snuggling together to read aloud when he was little, magical midnight movies, building Hogwarts out of Legos, playful fights over the books when he was older, great curious discussions of what might happen as we waited for the next installments, and a fictional parallel of youthful friendships that last over years and through difficult times.

So now we prepare to say good-bye to Harry, Ron, and Hermione.  I can’t help but remember the dear ones lost in life and in fiction. I remember the laughter, fall-outs and challenges in life and in fiction. All too soon I will be sending off my son and his friends into adulthood. I know last night’s tears won’t be the last I shed over these boys. May their memories and friendships serve them well.