May 21, 2015 by Ray Yanek
Well, it’s started. My daughter’s 8th grade graduation is in full swing. The graduation banquet was held last night, today is their last official day of school, and tomorrow they’ll practice the ceremony.
When I get off work, I have to stop at the dry-cleaners to pick up her cap and gown.
Yeah, I’m not sure how ready I am for all this…
But to honor this moment, I wanted to go back this week and revisit some of the old posts I wrote about my daughter. Below is one of the first posts I ever wrote on this blog–almost 4 years ago now.
Hope you enjoy.
“Why I Never Read Harry Potter”
Wizards? An atmospheric castle doubling as a school? A story about someone who did not fit in the real world finding a home in the magical one?
My curiosity rose…
My students, both the good kind and the kind who believed books were no more than unending supplies of rolling papers, lugged the book into my classroom. To my amazement, they even talked about these books! They argued about them with excitement and they were knocking these epic-length tomes virtually over night.
My curiosity became unbearable.
I picked up The Sorcerer’s Stone in the school library, felt its weight and the magic effervescing between the covers. Soft voices whispered to me, sang me songs of adventure and magic and things fantastic. I swooned under those words, longed to disappear for just a little while…
But then, I put the book down.
Images of my then young daughter breached my mind. I knew she would be at home, sounding out every word in her Junie B. Jones books as she tried to decode the runes and gain access to the same magic I had just held in my hands.
An easy decision followed. I would wait to read about Harry Potter until my daughter could read them with me.
That day came soon enough. Thinking to give her a little tease, we watched a couple of the movies. My ploy worked. She dove into The Sorcerer’s Stone and not long after, I heard the words every English teacher longs to hear: “Gee Dad,” she said. “The book is so much better.” She cruised through the rest of it, read so fast I could hardly keep pace. When she finished, she took a day off and then crashed into the The Chamber of Secrets. We read that one together, too. I helped her with words she didn’t understand and we talked about the story at night.
I couldn’t keep up after that. As much as I wanted too, as much as I loved the books, I had other books and stories demanding to be read, essays to grade, meetings to attend, a home to tend. I had a whole host of reasons that now seem so paltry and frail.
Undeterred, my daughter read on. She buzzed through the The Goblet of Fire, aced the Accelerated Reader test at school and told the teacher ‘no way’ when she suggested reading something different.
Harry Potter invaded our home. Posters of Harry and Hermione and Snape and Dumbledore covered my daughter’s walls. We bought book bags, t-shirts, bracelets, pins, Lego sets, banners, flags, and birthday cakes. My daughter played the video games, created her own Harry Potter mosaics, and would fall asleep watching the movies on a portable DVD player on the weekends. I still find little sticky notes with “I Love Ron Weasly” tucked in various places. Even though she finished the last book earlier in the year and the movie has since been played, my daughter will still be Hermione this Halloween.
I loved those/these times. I relished seeing the excitement in her eyes as she told me about how much she liked Ron or about something “cool” that happened at the school. I grinned when she spat the names Draco Malfoy and Bellatrix Lastrange. I flushed with pride when she solved some internal puzzle on her own, and my tears fell with hers when she read of Dumbledore’s death.
I’ll say it again—I love(d) those days.
She’s 10 now. Double-digits.
She listens to music that I have to listen to first. A sixth grade boy with a death wish told her she was cute. She’s going to dances at the community center and tells secrets to her girlfriend’s mother. I snap at her when she says something “sucks.” She asked me and mom recently to repaint her room and I fell into a slight panic. Maybe to assuage me, my daughter asked where I thought the best place would be to set-up her Potter Lego’s based on the future lay-out of the room.
Still, I find myself wondering if the posters and the Gryffindor pennants will match her color scheme…
Things are changing.
She’s getting braces. Next year, she goes to junior high, where the Things That Must Not Be Named reside. High school after that, where the Things That Must Not be Named grow in time with my daughter.
The urge to resist all this, to nudge her back into the safety of Hogwart’s and to the warmth of her room, consumes me. But I know I have to let her go.
And I can do that because I have faith. I have faith that my daughter will stand strong against those Things That Should Not Be Named, that she’ll depend on loyal friends, on a cryptic and all-powerful wizard, and on the memory of her parents’ unconditional love. I have faith that she’ll make it through– just as Harry Potter made it through.
I have that faith.
So will I ever finish reading the Harry Potter novels? Of course. I’ll read one when my daughter goes to high school. I’ll read another when she graduates. I’ll read a third when she goes away to college.
And someday, I’ll read one to help me remember that the marvelous woman standing in front of me is still my marvelous daughter.