Overdue HP Entry ...

03 Jul 2006

Well, it's July 3 already.The powers that be have made the executive decision to close the plant a little early today in observance of Independence Day tomorrow. That gives me precious little time to write up a post before leaving.I wanted to write the following post up about a month ago, but forgot about it until I read Simon's recent post about Harry Potter. So, here's the skinny:


In 2001, when the first Harry Potter movie came out, my daughter was 6 years old. It's tough for me to believe she was that young at the time, as I seem to remember her fascination with HP to have kicked in around 7 or 8.Six seems a little young, in retrospect, to expose a child to such a wondrous, supernatural world. But, she's always seemed to have an old soul, and she fell in love with it all immediately.

Sometime around our daughter's seventh year, we decided to have a little fun with the whole HP world. We arranged for an elderly neighbor to knock at the door and deliver a mysterious package wrapped in crumpled brown paper.The old woman even reported sighting an owl nearby, which could only mean one thing (not that the old woman had any idea what that was, by the way). The contents?A large sheet of black material covered with silvery sequins, along with a note to "use it well." That's right ... it was an invisibility cloak.

She immediately discovered all sorts of neat little tricks.For example, she'd wrap it around her head and we'd shout, "Oh my God, your head's gone!"Or, she'd leave it in the middle of the floor, and we'd carry on about the "hole" in the floor. All in all, she got a real kick out of it. I don't think anyone ever got more enjoyment from five bucks worth of specialty material from a fabric shop.

Over the years (and especially between 7 and 8), we pretty much established the fact that our family were witches and wizards (and most others we knew were "muggles"). It became somewhat of a family secret; we didn't discuss muggles too loudly in public.And, right up through Book 6, we kept up with the craze -- buying the books as they came out (usually attending special "midnight release parties" at the big chain stores), seeing the movies on their first day of release, and doing all sorts of other HP-themed activities like studying "potions" (actually, chemistry) in the basement with my wife. My daughter actually looks fairly similar to the actress who plays Hermione, so she'd often dress up like her for movie premiers or Halloween. Over time, she'd acquired a Gryffindor robe, a wand, a hat, a scarf, a broom, and several other magical items.

I'm skipping over quite a lot of detail because I want to get to the problem in all of this ... We should have planned this all out a little more carefully, I suppose. To us, it was just innocent "playing along," trying to extend the magical nature of childhood a little longer. Surely, she'd grow out of it all sooner or later, right?

Take Christmas, for example.No one ever sat me down and said, "Look, Patrick, I hate to tell you this, but there's no Santa Claus." It was just assumed, at some age or other, that I knew -- and, I did, somehow. (However, to this day, mysterious packages are known to appear at my parents' house, labeled as being from Santa.)

But then something interesting happened a couple of months ago: My daughter turned 11.Normally, this isn't such a big deal.However, if you've read the HP books, then you should know that 11 is a HUGE deal. It's the year when Harry receives his invitation to attend Hogwarts. Harry's 11th birthday is essentially the beginning of Book 1.

A few weeks prior to her birthday, she began to get rather excited about the prospect of receiving *her* letter. It would be great, and yet terrible -- great, because it would once and for all convince her that all of this stuff is true. (Having reached 11, she'd naturally grown a bit skeptical about things.) It would be terrible, though, because it would mean having to leave home to attend Hogwarts -- a boarding school somewhere nearScotland.However, if she *didn't* receive the letter, it would mean that she might just be a regular muggle after all (or, at least not accepted into Hogwarts).

What to do ...

After some brainstorming and research, we found some online Hogwarts stuff for her. So, on the eve of her 11th birthday, I set up a new gmail account for her, sent her an email disguised to look like it was from Dumbledore (no easy task, I should say, since I had to use my work's web server to spoof the Hogwarts address via an ASP script), and then delivered her actual "letter" (again, crumpled brown paper) which instructed her to check her email.

In her new Gmail Inbox, she found the following message:

"As you may have guessed, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has grown immensely over the past several years thanks to the world-famous Harry Potter series published by J.K. Rowling. As a result of this exponential growth, attendance at our campus has become extremely popular. After much debate among the various councils that govern the school in conjunction with the Ministry of Magic, the administration has decided to limit enrollment to wizards and witches whose families reside within theUnited Kingdom. ... However, any students residing outside of the United Kingdom (such as yourself) who would normally be invited to matriculate and live within our castle, are still able to attend our school and pursue magical education -- *virtually*, thanks to the muggle-born magic of the internet. (Not all witches and wizards receive this invitation, of course, so please do not discuss this outside of your home.)"

I thought it was kind of an elegant solution to the problem. Here we were able to perpetuate the fantasy a little longer and she wouldn't have to stress out about leaving home to pursue magical studies.

But, something went wrong.(For some reason, I'm drawing a blank suddenly. Damn, I should start taking that ginko biloba ...) Something tipped her off that it was all fake.Maybe it was simply the fact that she'd begun to grow out of it all, but she began to suspect things weren't as she'd believed. Or maybe it was us -- realizing that we couldn't have her walking around as an 11-year-old believing she could perform magic. In any case, w e were going to have ot sit her down and set things straight.

For a while there, I was seriously worried that this blow would prove severe -- that she'd go catatonic on us and never forgive us for letting her believe in this whole magical world in the first place. But, it wasn't like that at all. Once my wife had "the talk" with her, life went on. She was perhaps a little weirded out for a while but, all in all, she came through unscathed.

She's still fascinated with HP, of course -- listens to the books on tape, watches the movies, debates whether Dumbledore is actually dead, etc. I guess she just knows deep down now that it's all a wonderful fantasy world from the mind of J.K. Rowling. She's also got a mad crush on the actor who plays Draco Malfoy, of all things.So, I think the movies have made the whole transition a little easier.

Well, that's the 20-minute version of the story, anyway.

Original Comments

Below, are the original comments on this post. Additional comments may be made via Facebook, below.

On July 3, 2006, Anonymous wrote:

What do you mean there is no Santa Claus??!!!!!!

:-(

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