BRIAN MCMILLAN | EXECUTIVE EDITOR
My wife criticizes me often for not having read the Harry Potter books. “You call yourself a literature person,” she says. “You call yourself a writer.”
“I watched the movies!” I always tell her, thinking, “Isn’t that enough suffering?”
“You fell asleep in every one of the movies,” she says.
“Not the third one,” I mumble. There’s something about Harry’s muggle family that makes me cringe. And don’t get me started on Dobby, banging his head against that dresser. To make her happy, I tell her, “I’ll read the books to the kids when they’re older.”
The problem is, now they’re older, and I have to start delivering. I pulled down the old, dusty “Sorcerer’s Stone” and began reading out loud. My children gathered around, and we were having some great family time, imagining together all about the world of wizards and Privet Drive, or whatever, until I accidentally fell asleep again.
Fortunately, I had waited long enough so that my sons can tackle the books without my help. Jackson, 9, is currently cruising along, starting the final book. Grant, 7, is on the fourth book, although he’s a bit less patient than Jackson and couldn’t resist reading the last page of the series, just to make sure nothing too bad happens.
One day, I brought Grant with me to the grocery store, and he held an open Harry book out in front of him the whole time, like he was reading a huge compass.
“Do you want spaghetti for dinner?” I asked as we walked through the produce aisle.
“Sure,” Grant said flatly. His eyes were fixed on the page, and he was attempting to navigate by keeping my shoes in his peripheral vision. Just to see how blindly he would follow me, I led him in circles around the frozen-fish freezer until he finally caught on. “Dad! Just walk straight!” he said, still without looking up from the page. The miracle is that he made it through the parking lot without crashing into anything.
And yet, there are times when I feel a bit left out. The kids are casting spells on each other, making jokes, and I’m just there, chuckling quietly to myself, the only guy who doesn’t know the difference between a Crookshank and a Horcrux. I thought, “I’m better than this!”
Of course, I didn’t actually start reading the books, but I did agree to help Grant make a wand. In the backyard, I sawed off part of a branch that looked wand-like and dragged two patio chairs into the sunlight so that we wouldn’t freeze to death while we were whittling (What a way to go!).
“How many knots are in this thing?” Grant finally said, after about a hundred seconds.
We took turns working the pocketknife over the wood, smoothing it down into something that looked like it could cast a spell or two. He was hunched over, a blanket draped around his body to keep warm. His nose and eyebrows were twisted in extreme concentration.
“Why do you stick your tongue out when you whittle?” I asked him.
“It helps me when I’m trying to get a better angle,” he said. Then he said, “I can’t wait until this wand is finished!”
We completed it that afternoon, and while I was at work the next day, he painted it black. It hasn’t caused too many problems in the house so far, other than the fact that I don’t know exactly what he’s pretending to do to me when he pops out from hallway, stabs the air with the wand in my direction, shouts something that sounds like pig Latin, and then runs away, laughing wickedly.
But I suppose it’s just part of the strange Harry Potter universe, along with nimbus broomsticks and Snapes and Hagrids and that one wizard who slowly gets his body parts back, except for his nose — can’t seem to remember his name ...