Harry Potter mania began when my eldest was little and reached fever pitch at the perfect age for my kids.
I began reading the books aloud to her when she was about six, then started all over again with the twins. We soon caught up with JK Rowling and had to wait for the new books to come out. The first time, I pre-ordered a copy for delivery on the publication date, but felt guilty because my younger daughter had to wait the 24 hours or so it took for her big sister to devour it (they read to themselves of course, as well as listening to me at bedtime). For later releases, I ordered two copies (my son was indifferent). My daughter went to Leicester Square for a glimpse of her, and at the slightest opportunity wore the wig, cape and specs with her brother’s uniform until… well, I don’t know if she ever stopped. (Although these days she dresses up as a salamander, or cytoblast or something from time to time, too.)
I read aloud every night to my three children until they were in senior school and beyond. I miss so much the evenings on the bed of one or other child, snuggled up, turning the pages together when they were little and we looked at the pictures together. Later on, ‘chapter books’. Dr Seuss, Just William and other favourites from my own childhood, and many wonderful new books I was delighted to discover. Laughing together, doing all the voices, talking them over. My eldest got bedtime to herself. The twins had to share. It didn’t seem fair. I was so conscious that they had to share a great many things apart from birthdays and bedtimes. Trying to allow each a level of autonomy while pleasing both. Some people labelled me ‘cruel’ for sending them to different schools aged 5. I wanted them to be judged on their own merits, have their own friends, not compete directly for marks in class and so on. My son had speech difficulties and his twin was terrifyingly articulate and I wanted him to speak for himself. Now they don’t speak to one another, have no contact at all. But that is too sad to talk about here.
Back to Harry Potter.
I enjoyed the books. I admired their cleverness and approved of the messages. I thought JK Rowling had done a magnificent job and that her success was well deserved. I didn’t fall in love with her, though, until later.
What did it was this speech she made to the graduating class at Harvard. (Can’t get it to embed, sorry.)
I can think of at least one reader who might hear it and think ‘phooey’; there may be more. But I think it is perfect.
I wish I’d had that speech at my graduation. Maybe it would have been wasted on me. I was in the Sheldonian recently for the graduation of my first born, 30 years after my own graduation in the same building, which I could not remember at all. Hers wasn’t memorable either. Loads of talking in Latin, endless groups of students lining up. The only noteworthy thing about my own ceremony is that I was given my degree by Harold MacMillan, the former Prime Minister known as Supermac. I’ve checked. He was 92 and died later that year. No idea what he said.
Since then my love has grown. On the basis of her tweets. Specifically her replies to the odious president of the US. She seems to spend as much time as he does on Twitter. But her involvement is not evil. And, more’s the pity, she doesn’t have a country to run.
Image: photo taken at my daughter’s college on the day of her graduation.