Tag Archives: nostalgia

Harry Potter Memories, Volume 1

75580517I stood outside on a warm July night as the clock closed in toward midnight, surrounded by a group of people just as rabid as I was to get the final installment in a series that had captivated us for so long. It was a bittersweet few minutes because I knew when I finally had that book in my mitts that would be it; there would be no more firsts when it came to Harry Potter. And I knew that when I had finally gotten to the last page and read that last sentence, that last word, it would be finished. I would have no more books to look forward to. I knew I would have to savor it in a way I had savored very few things in my life to that point. That was okay by me.

The group outside of Barnes & Noble that cloudless night were varied, from the black-wearing goths, to the bowtie nerds, to the casually chic, to, well, me. I was the only tall black guy wearing glasses in the bunch, but I didn’t stand out because we all stood out. We were standing outside of a book store at midnight, in 2007, after the point when physical books were supposed to be obsolete, desperate to get our hands on the same thing, like crackheads needing that pipe.

That brought us together, but it separated us too, because we all read in different ways. Some of us take our time and absorb every single word, sometimes going back and re-reading entire sections when we feel we’ve missed or want to clarify something. Others skim read, a process I call “getting the gist,” and they fly through each book with ease, but they don’t get each subtle nuance the way the absorbed readers do. For the skim readers their ultimate goal is to get to the end of the book as quickly as possible, whatever it takes.

Some of those skim readers were in front of me in line that night, as we all had to take numbers according to when we arrived at the store. I got there at quarter of 12 so I was in the 20’s, and I knew my wait to get my hands on the coveted book would be infinitely longer than the people in front of me who loudly declared they would finish the book in the parking lot, that they wouldn’t budge until they were on that last page. Then the floodgates opened, they called the first group of ticket holders, and it had begun.

The lucky ones who had those first tickets disappeared inside the golden gates, and in a matter of minutes they were back with their copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in hand. A few of them opened the book up straightaway and skipped to the last page, to see how it all ended. It was in those moments that I sincerely wished that magic was real, that each page’s words would only appear after the previous page had been read. But no such luck, so I merely hoped they would keep whatever happened to themselves.

Then my number was called and I was gone, inside the store at quarter after midnight. A man in a suit stood next to a large table that was completely filled with copies of the book. He handed one to the woman in front of me, who I swear did a dance before hustling up to the register. Then it was my turn, and he handed me my own copy, the book I knew I would treasure until the end of my days. I followed the woman to the register, desperate to give her my hard-earned money in exchange for an experience that would certainly be as magical as the words in the book themselves.

I emerged into the parking lot again, and even though there were still legions of fans out there milling around I didn’t see any of them. My eyes were locked onto the artwork on the front of the book gripped tightly in my hands. I didn’t see any way that I would get sleep that night, but I wasn’t staying in the parking lot. My car materialized out of the fog of my obsession, I clicked it unlocked, and I tossed the book onto the passenger side seat. It would have to wait until the next day, on the way to Massachusetts.

When I would read until I couldn’t read any more. Because it was Harry Potter. Because it was the final book. And it was time.

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Family Reading Time

Mixed-race-family-readingMy mother has always been a reader. Some of the first memories I have are of her sitting in the living room rocking chair with a book in her lap and a bookmark on the side table. It seemed like every night there were a few minutes she was able to devote to the enterprise, and I was in awe. I would sometimes sit at her feet and she would read to me. I remember the sound of her voice then. It was strong and confident, yet full of wonder and excitement. I could tell that for her reading was something special, something to be honored and appreciated.

At night she would also read to us in her bedroom. I recall sitting cross-legged in the middle of her bed, with my sister next to me, enraptured by the stories she would weave. I remember an itsy bitsy spider who was fascinated with a water spout, a cat who always wore a stylish hat, and a bat who wanted desperately to be a bird. Every story, no matter how many times she read it to us, carried with it a sense of magic and wonder that I still feel now every time I read them to my own children.

So, from an early age we learned the value of reading, and the importance of finding time to not only read individually but to incorporate family reading time into the equation. It’s not easy either, with the crazy, hectic nature of life and all the other responsibilities we have to do, but I think it’s essential to find that time. Sometimes at night when I’m reading to my own children I’m reminded of being on the other side of things. When I see their bright little eyes, and I know their ears are taking in every single word, I smile.

When I talk to my sister on the phone these days one of the first things we talk about is whatever book we happen to be reading, what book we just finished, or what books are next on our lists. We are such different readers, too. My sister is really into a lot of non-fiction. She is huge on books that explain what’s going on in our world, and she has such an analytical mind that those are wonderful for her. My focus is on fiction where I thrive on understanding character motivation and plot twists. But we share such a love for simply “good” books that we often cross-read and compare our impressions.

My oldest daughter is completely into reading as well, tackling books that should be above her grade level, and doing it with ease. She shares her impressions with me, and we have phenomenal conversations about what she’s reading and what she’s going to read next. She listens to my suggestions, and I hear hers. In fact, she reads so much that I feel bad having to interrupt her for dinner or for school. It’s a reminder to me that there is indeed a circle of life.

And here I am in-between these two families, the one I was born into, and the one that I helped create, still reading every single day, and still sharing it all with both families that claim me as their own. It’s a testament to the glory of family reading time and its impact on everyone involved. I treasure those times always.

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