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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Wizard and I

by May Jones (bio)

The year was 2000. It was June and I was eight months pregnant with my first child. I thought that when I wore my overalls, no one could even tell (a picture taken on the night I went into labor proved me horribly wrong, and I believe I burned the things after that. Please don't ever let overalls on grown women be a "thing" again, fashion gods.)

For my major, I had to earn one credit working behind the scenes on a main-stage play. I guess that's how they try to teach us actors what the crew members go through, so we're more compassionate toward them. I think it must have worked, because I've been known to bring gummi bears to my stage manager.

I signed up to help with costumes for a British farce that all my friends were in, as I figured being hugely pregnant was as good a time as any to be an awesome crew member. Most of my work was before and after curtain, so I had a LOT of down time backstage during the show. I got my hands on a copy of a little children's book called Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone because people wouldn't stop talking about it. For some reason, there was a full mattress lying on the ground backstage. Most nights, between the hours of 7:30 and 9:30, I could be found lying (on my side!) on that mattress, wearing my techie uniform of a black t-shirt and black stretch pants, engrossed in that little novel.

Eleven years later, I was sitting on a subway next to my eleven year old daughter. "Hey!" I exclaimed to her, "You are exactly the same age as Harry was when the books started!" And then it hit me. These books and movies had been with me for my entire parenting life. Having just seen the final installment of the final movie that morning, we had now come full circle. Where would we go from here? I couldn't believe it was over.

My daughter has read all seven books, and my eight year old son is finishing up the fifth one. There was a time when I didn't want them to read past the third book, because I thought it was too dark for their innocent minds to grapple with. But my daughter, ever wise beyond her years, made sound, logical arguments, and persuaded me to allow her to continue. For a while, I held out where the movies were concerned. "They're too scary!" I persisted. Then, my husband Max Power read all seven books in a two week period last fall, and the four of us watched every single movie together to prepare for "The Deathly Hallows, Part 1."

Not only has it been a fun pastime we've shared, shooting spells out of chopsticks at each other, me constantly yelling at Max, "NO unforgivable curses allowed in this apartment!" but I feel it has been a wonderful teaching tool of values (remember when there was all that hullabaloo about the books being evil, because they were about wizardry and witchcraft?) On the way home from the movie this weekend, I looked at my son with his own forehead scar, the result of a Mother's Day picnic that ended with a trip to the ER, and not an evil wizard attack. I thought about what a great role model Harry is for him. As a character, he is courageous to the point of facing death itself, and compassionate for all those around him. Courage and Compassion are two qualities that my young mormon children need to develop to be able to navigate this tempestuous world. The dark things I was originally shielding them from are all around them at school, in the media, and on the sidewalks of NY. I felt grateful that they have had such a formidable hero to look to for their entire childhood.

For myself, I left the movie wanting to go home and hold my babies. I wanted to be a better mother (if not a witch mother), and I felt perspective on what is most important. The last eleven years have been the the most difficult years of my life. But they have also been the most meaningful, most rewarding, and some of the most vital. I'm so glad I had Harry and the gang to aid me along. And, for the record, I never for a minute gave up on Snape.

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