I pride myself in being non-emotional. I’m not easily hurt, or at least I never show it. I lick my wounds, dust myself off, buck up, and a million other clichés all to avoid being wimpy. So, it was totally unlike me to get teary-eyed at the Harry Potter expedition with my then 12 year-old son, and really like me to stifle those tears as best as I could.
I took Sergio to see the first Harry Potter movie in 2001, when it first came out. He was 4 and I was a wreck. His father and I were in the middle of a divorce and I was really afraid of losing Sergio. His father would say things like, “I have more money and I can get a better lawyer than you can.” It was all I could do to suck my tears in and respond with things like, “Well, if that’s what you want to spend your money on, go ahead.” Inside I was shaking. There was no way that I could imagine living without my son with me every day. No way.
I was a basket case during this time. I was irritable, depressed, sick and skinny – the skinniest I had ever been in my adult life. I was a size 2!! I wasn’t eating, and when I did eat I was sick to my stomach a lot, not in that afterschool special kind of way but in that “oh my God how did I get to this point in my life?” way. I wasn’t sleeping. Every time I closed my eyes I would think about court, lawyers, child support, and all of the “he said she said” garbage. How do two people who love each other come to hate each other? I will never understand this.
Of course, the divorce was affecting Sergio, too. How could it not? He went to his dad’s (a two hour car ride) every weekend at first, then every other weekend. Going back and forth was tough. At dad’s house, things were different, as is often the case. Whenever Sergio came back from his dad’s I had to get him reacquainted with our way of doing things. If it was hard on me, I know it must have been torture for Sergio.
During this time, when Sergio was finally at the age where he could sit through a movie, I took him to see Harry Potter. He loved it, and oddly enough, I did too. I was used to watching kid’s TV shows with my son, and a few movies, and pretending to like them. Really, I would have rather had a colonoscopy than watch Dora the Explorer one more time. Harry Potter was different. It drew us both into a magical world, far away from the drama that was our life at that time.
Harry Potter became our special Mother and Son hobby, sort of. We went to every new movie together, and when Sergio was a little older, he started reading the books. So, I read them too. We haven’t finished them, but we are working our way through. We took a break to conquer the Twilight series. Sergio’s father does not enjoy reading, and my husband really isn’t into Harry Potter. So, Harry is ours, just ours.
Sergio was surfing the internet when he discovered that not only was there going to be a Harry Potter theme park, but there would be a Harry Potter Exhibition in Chicago this summer, about three hours from our home. So, we took a day trip. Three hours there, and three hours back, and worth every minute.
Sergio and I got to Chicago at about 10 AM and purchased our museum and separate Harry Potter exhibition tickets. Our tour time was 10:45. We could not wait. While we were standing in line, waiting to enter the exhibition, there was a woman, with a British accent of course, asking everyone trivia questions from the series. Sergio got them all right and said, “I got them all right; I’m such a dork!” He had the biggest smile on his face. It was great to see my “rock star” son so happy with his dorky side. That’s when I started to tear up, but I sucked it in. I swear if anyone can inhale through their eyes, it’s me. There is no way I was going to cry in public. No way.
So, we walked through the exhibition and it was amazing. There were props and costumes from the movie. There were a lot of other people looking at the objects too, but we took our time and got a close up view of everything. Sergio even took the time to sit in Hagrid’s chair. If I had been allowed to take a picture, I would have. Sergio looked like a little kid in that chair, even though he is now bigger than me. I could tell that he really got a kick out of seeing and touching all of this stuff.
While we walked through the exhibition, I was struck with how amazing this all really was. The props and the clothing were great to view, but the creation of this story was what really astounded me. A single mom, much like I was years ago, sat in a café and wrote the first Harry Potter while her baby slept. She managed to get herself off of welfare and bring joy to people all over the world just by writing a story. Now, here we were walking through a museum and looking at things created in one woman’s mind. It was inspiring on many levels. I started to get teary eyed again, but managed to reel myself back in again.
The exhibition exits into a gift shop, a very theme park technique. We looked around for a bit and Sergio picked up a “Lord Voldemort movie replica wand” for 50 bucks. Normally, I wouldn’t buy a plastic stick for 50 bucks, but it was a semi-grown up piece of Harry Potter that Sergio could take home. Plus, it was the bad guy’s wand, which totally fit Sergio’s rock star persona. So, I bought the wand and spent an extra 20 bucks for an official Harry Potter wand holder.
As soon as we got home, Sergio arranged all of his Harry Potter books (he has both the British and American versions in hard cover) on the top shelf of his hutch, next to the Twilight series. He put his wand in front of the books, with the same excitement he had as when I bought him his first Harry Potter costume when he was 4. Then, he went to play his electric guitar. I finally let myself cry.
Note: This was originally posted on my Salon blog, but I thought it fit the Halloween theme.