“All right,” Heather told Missy, “hold still and don’t squirm, so I can draw this on you.”
With a big grin, Missy held still – barely. The excitement lit her face as, piece by piece, her transformation proceeded. The red and gold tie. The round glasses. The dark school robes with her House crest. And of course, the famous lightning scar on the forehead.
“Are you ready to go, Harry?” I asked.
Hogwarts Express, here we come! Or at least, an early Halloween party.
To anyone who knows our ward Missy, this should come as no surprise. After all, what she loves, she loves hard. That includes red purses filled to the breaking point, stereos turned to maximum volume, bowling on days that end in “Y,” … and always, always, anything that has to do with J.K. Rowling’s famous Harry Potter, The Boy Who Lived.
The discovery, like many, grew out of our nighttime reading. Heather and I had fallen in love with the world of young wizards and witches long ago, and decided to try out the first book on Missy on a whim. Which was kind of like introducing Clark Kent to phone booths. Soon, we had consumed the whole series amongst rapt attention and shouted cheers, and a powerful devotion had begun.
They became the first books she ever asked me to re-read. And then re-re-read. Potter memorabilia became the birthday gift most likely to generate smiles, from Gryffindor socks to coloring books. And of course, for three of the last five Halloweens, she’s been the boy wizard himself, her dark hair, green eyes, and slight frame perfectly suited to the role.
I’m sure there are at least a few parents nodding as I write this. Twenty years after the books debuted in this country and more than 10 years after the movies wrapped, there’s still a powerful following – kids, adults, maybe even cocker spaniels for all I know. Why?
Some of it is the basic pull of an exciting story, of course. Missy gets amped up every time we hit a sky-high Quidditch match, or pull out the wands for another desperate battle with dark forces. Adrenaline is powerful, and it’s fun.
But it’s not always what lasts.
At heart, I think Rowling’s words have lasted because they HAVE heart.
They remember what it’s like to be an almost-adolescent, entering a world you don’t understand and figuring out where you belong in it.
They bring back how wonderful and how painful it can be to tie your heart to someone else, and how hard their loss can hit.
They rediscover the moments when you find your heroes have feet of clay, and that things you were certain about may not be as simple as they seemed.
And most of all, they bring home the simple truth that everyone matters. That everyone is worthy of love. That closing yourself off to that only tears you apart and works greater harm. And that you can always choose to make a difference for the better – not because you have to, but because you know it needs to be done.
That’s powerful stuff. Whatever your age.
And it’s a power the best stories have always had.
In a couple of weeks, the costume will be put away. The trick-or-treat candy will be eaten. But the magic will remain, ready to be conjured back at any moment.
And when it is, Missy will hold still – barely – as the spell works its charm one more time.