Happy Anniversary, Harry

I wonder if I’ll ever read the entire Harry Potter series. We didn’t start buying them until 2000 or so. I read the first book and about half of the second, just to keep up, when Gwen was reading them aloud to our children Raven and Gavin. I don’t clearly remember why I stopped.

It’s true enough that I’ve never been a big reader of fantasy, particularly in series. But it’s also true that I’m reaching back for a memory from the period immediately after my father’s death, when depression was starting to settle heavily on me. I expect it was getting harder to find joy in a lot of things.

I seem to remember having issues with the writing on a sentences-and-paragraphs level. As a person with some fondness for various kinds of sportsball, I hatedhatedhated the game design of Quidditch. And I think I have to confess to some petty pangs of professional envy, tied to the beginning of hard times in my own career (a cancelled contract, an editor/publisher ally passing away).

But those are trivial things, especially from this distance. The power of Harry’s story, and the magnitude of J.K. Rowling’s accomplishment, stand undisputed. So as the final reel of DEATHLY HALLOWS rolls on Freeform’s weekend marathon, I raise a cup in salute to her, and in observance of this anniversary with Harry’s countless fans.

Movie Night at Alternity House

Without any prior awareness that today is the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Raven and Gwen and I watched several of the extended cuts of the HP films together through the course of the weekend. It must have been something in the air (or on the Freeform program schedule). We have only 7(b) left to go.

We also watched Singin’ in the Rain on Sunday evening, Dad’s choice for a delayed Father’s Day. It was new to Raven, and it had been a number of years for me and for Gwen. I was delighted to watch Raven enjoying it more than I think she expected to. The “Beautiful Girl” number is pretty cringy when viewed from 2017 (and, really, it’s completely superfluous), but “Make ‘Em Laugh,” “Good Morning,” and “Singing in the Rain” are still timeless.

The Family Plan

The people I’ve felt closest to in my life include both natural and found family. Many (though not all) of them are on Facebook, where they might see these words. But only a rare few live close enough to drop in on for an evening. My heart family is scattered like a handful of diamonds cast across a wall-sized National Geographic map. This state of affairs began with high school graduation, accelerated after college, and became more pronounced as the years rolled on.

A long time ago I used to fantasize that if I were only rich enough, I could somehow draw all of my friends together in a kind of co-housing Shangri-La. But I was never in any danger of being that kind of rich–and, besides, by now my friends’ lives are firmly anchored in at least a score of different cities, most of which are in other states, a few even in other countries.

This was less obviously a problem when I was in my 30s and early 40s. Gwen and I often went out of town to spend a weekend with friends, and almost as often hosted visitors. We made regular pilgrimages to the Flying Island of Fandom, attending as many as ten cons a year. We took longer trips to see family and explore little pieces of the country. And something called a modem appeared on the scene, changing the nature of long-distance relationships and creating the possibility of dear-friends-I’ve-never-met.

Then, unexpectedly, it all got much harder. An hour’s drive was a hurdle, not a trifle. A weekend away became vastly more complicated, especially if it was for a con. Depression hit. Chronic illnesses sapped energy. Parenting had first claim on all resources–emotional, financial, physical, temporal.

I’m waking up to the fact that we’ve allowed time, distance, health, and/or money to separate us from far too many friends for far too long. Maybe we could begin to do something about changing that–preferably before we start to find that it takes someone’s illness or wake to bring us back together.