“It was a dark and stormy night…”
Actually, it was afternoon, though it was one of those gray, dismal days that are only good for napping, but napping wasn’t going to happen, not with three cranky children who were just as tired of “Barney,” “Blue’s Clues” and action figures as I was. We all wanted to get out of the house, and this was one of the rare days I had the car. But funds were limited, and there weren’t a lot of rainy day activities that were cheap enough for four of us. There was, however, a movie theater a few minutes down the road that had tickets and popcorn for a dollar, and my youngest two would get in for free. That, I could manage.
There wasn’t a large selection and, obviously, an R-rated movie wasn’t going to work, but “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” was playing. Now, I’d heard about it in passing, but I’d never been impressed with the concept, not when my days were already filled with “Bear in the Big Blue House” and “Power Rangers.” The best way to ensure I didn’t want anything to do with something was to mention that it was for children. I dealt with kids 24/7/365, and I wanted what little leisure time I had to be devoted to other pursuits.
“They loved each other, and they had fun. This was what I desperately wanted for my own family.”
To say that I was pleasantly surprised would be the epitome of an understatement. I loved the wizarding world, and Diagon Alley stirred a longing within me that nothing has quelled. See, I’ve always loved folklore and mythology, and a world where I could come face-to-face with these creatures sent my heart soaring. Nothing would do but that I read the book. By page 100, if it took that long, I was hooked.
Over the next couple of weeks I obtained and inhaled the four books that were out at the time. I laughed. I cried. I wished I’d gotten a letter for Hogwarts back when I was 11. I listened to Dumbledore, and I wanted nothing more than to wave a wand and make Snape’s obvious pain disappear. And having been much like Hermione, I could relate to her. I loved the world and the people who inhabited it, and the idea that magic could be real spoke to that part of me that knew there was nowhere I really belonged.
But what cemented the world of Harry Potter in my heart was the Weasley family.
“I would read and reread the scenes that took place at the Burrow, the ones where anyone who cared to visit was welcomed...”
The Weasley family was poor. Dirt poor. Nothing they had would bring even a Knut at a yard sale, yet they made do. It didn’t matter to most of the wizarding world that they were poor; their value wasn’t based on that. They loved each other, and they had fun. This was what I desperately wanted for my own family. We, too, were living below poverty level and barely getting by, and we, too, lived in a world full of Malfoys, constantly hounded and interfered with by well-meaning people who just couldn’t understand that money isn’t everything and that maybe, just maybe, their assistance was neither desired nor required.
When things were particularly bad, I would turn to the Harry Potter books, not just to escape but to remind myself that staying home to care for my children was a worthwhile endeavor, perhaps more so than bringing in another paycheck. (This wasn’t taking into account the cost of daycare for three small children.) I would read and reread the scenes that took place at the Burrow, the ones where anyone who cared to visit was welcomed, and the later ones at the Order of the Phoenix headquarters, and these helped me to remember that the Malfoys I was dealing with weren’t Dumbledores ― they didn’t know everything.
“... there are times that I still turn to the Harry Potter books, especially the scenes with the Weasley family, when I need to remember that money isn’t what life’s all about...”
Sure, as my children got older, they experienced the same frustration with our finances that we see the Weasley boys express in “Goblet of Fire,” but at 16 my oldest still wanted family movie night. We may not have been able to go on fancy vacations, but we spent many a summer night sitting around a bonfire in the backyard listening to music and telling each other stories. We laughed and joked, and we all banded together when it came time for holiday cooking. We looked at stars, and we walked in the woods. We played video games together and had fun choosing the stupidest, most badly produced horror movies ever made. And we endured.
Things are different now, maybe even better in some ways, but there are times that I still turn to the Harry Potter books, especially the scenes with the Weasley family, when I need to remember that money isn’t what life’s all about, that bills and planning and listening to what the Malfoys of the world tell us is acceptable is less important than doing what’s right or in focusing on dreams and family.
So thank you, JK Rowling, for giving those of us who don’t quite fit into the world a place to call home and people who understand us and for showing that “poor” and “good” are not mutually exclusive terms.
(And if you get bored, we’d really like a biography of Severus Snape.)