Friday, July 15, 2011

Harry Potter

The vast majority of the audience were teenagers. One was even dressed in a Hogwarts uniform - short plaid skirt, untucked white blouse, tie. Our teenaged neighbour saw the movie at the midnight screening.

I went with my preteen son, but it must be emphasized that I was not there merely as a chauffeur or a chaperone. (We got there more than a half an hour early. For those who know me, that's like camping out -- I generally arrive with not a moment to spare.)

Our neighbour had told me that she cried four times during the movie. I wondered what might make me cry.

On the way, we talked about a survey that came out today asking who your favourite Harry Potter character was - and wondered aloud who our favourites were. My son voted for Harry. I said, maybe, Neville. The survey said Snape.

The movie did not disappoint. We were taken on a fantastic ride and it was so very well done in every way, probably the best of all the HP films.

And I did cry. I welled up more than a few times, but tears fell down my cheeks at the most unexpected time: when the forces of evil were attacking and Professor McGonagle, Molly Weasley and a small number of other Hogwarts staff and friends stood outside, casting protective spells that spread like an oil slick in the sky to form a bubble over the school. Two things made me cry: one, the sheer beauty of the bubble, and two, that those charged with this act of protection were the moms and dads, the middle aged people. The audience I sat with might have reflected the central characters of the movie - and my neighbour told me later that she cried because they were finished at Hogwarts and she was graduating high school - but there was also a very real place for me in this movie. It wasn't the teenagers who cast this beautiful, protective spell.

I wondered if I felt the weight of this more than usual because less than an hour before the movie began, my husband left for a week in Switzerland. What I hate about him going away is that the mantle of responsibility for the kids comes to rest squarely on my shoulders. I'm the one who must cast the protective spell, in his absence.

But the movie - for all the hue and cry it raised about the perils of witchcraft - reminded me more than anything has recently that there is evil to fight and children to be protected, and that protection can be very beautiful and vulnerable.

The other thing my tears made me think about was my experience with re-reading books. Until I had children, I always identified with the ingenue in a story. I liked the early Anne of Green Gables books. But after having children, I began to shift in my identification. Maybe that sounds obvious - and in one sense it is - but it makes an old, beloved book an utterly new one. It's a bit like shifting from third to first person narration.

I loved Neville in this movie, and I loved Harry and Snape too, but so unexpectedly and so very deeply, my very favourite characters were Minerva McGonagle and Molly Weasley. And, as one charged with the sole care and keeping of my kids for the next week, I am very grateful for the experience that gave me a heroic vision of what I'm doing. It may look like driving to soccer and summer camps, and tucking into bed and making and cleaning up supper, but it's also a larger and deeper role. As Harry learns, he could just go on -- but he could also choose to go back, to engage in the fray and to fight for a new and better world.

I think I'll do the same.

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