The Harry Potter generation’s years of waiting are over

July 13, 2011

A chapter in my sons’ life is about to come to an end. Like all parents who are observing a child’s milestone, my throat is tight, my chest constricted.

No, my sons aren’t heading off to kindergarten or college. Neither are they about to embark on a first date or a first job.

They are about to see the last Harry Potter movie.

I realize how melodramatic that sounds to some of you. But I also know there are others who are nodding, perhaps with some guilt, at the way the scarred boy wizard has become enmeshed in your lives.

As surely as there is a Generation X or a Generation Y, there is a Harry Potter generation. These are the kids who grew up reading each of the books, then waiting in anticipation for the next one. These kids then played out the same anxious scenario waiting for the movies. They engaged in endless critiques of whether filmmakers had gotten the spider scene in the Forbidden Forest just right, or whether Alfonso Cuaron’s “Prisoner of Azkaban” strayed too far from the original text. (Cuaron directed only one Potter movie, so you decide.)

I believe that my grandkids will devour the wizarding world of Harry Potter, but it will be a different experience for them. There will be no staying up until midnight to go to a Harry Potter book party; no anxiously awaiting the FedEx driver delivering the sacred text on release day. They will not know the anticipation that was the true magic of the Harry Potter experience.

We are a family of readers so for us, Harry Potter will always be more about the books than the movies. We started the series the Christmas after my sons turned 7, as a read-aloud. The series ended for us when they were 11 and more than capable of reading “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” to themselves. I offered to buy three copies of the book, but neither boy would hear of it. We would do it as read-aloud because “that’s our family tradition,” I was told.

And so we went to our cabin in West Virginia one week in July 2007, sat on the back porch and read and read and read. Every time the words “just one more chapter, please” were uttered, it was bittersweet. We knew if we raced through it, it would end all the sooner.

We read the epilogue with not a dry eye. It was the first summer the boys were without their father. If Harry had died, I’m not sure any of us could have withstood the loss. But Harry, named “The Boy Who Lived” in the series’ first chapter, did more than merely live. He survived so much more than a failed killing curse as a baby. He survived the loss of his parents, mentors, friends. He survived betrayals and self-doubt. He found a way to overcome.

I don’t know that my own boys, still grieving, saw parallels between themselves and Harry during that summer. But I found hope that my boys could not just endure their loss, but also, like Harry, find a way to be empowered by it.

Even when the books had been read, we held fast the consolation that there were still more movies to be made. We could cling to how the Battle of Hogwarts would be played out on the big screen; how Severus Snape’s ultimate redemption would be rendered.

My boys and I spent part of the July 4 weekend, re-watching some of the Potter movies with another family of Potterphiles. It was achingly melancholy.

With the opening of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2” this weekend, the Harry Potter generation will have officially grown up.

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