In the summer of 1998, one of my clients sent me a book that her daughter had picked up earlier that year on a trip to London. The book had quickly become a family favorite, and she wondered if I would be willing to read the book and then create a party for them. Always up for a challenge, I agreed right away. Little did I know, the book she would send me would begin a 13-year love affair that took in 7 books, 7 audio books, 8 movies, and a whole lot of magazine articles.
As I read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone for the first time I was simply absorbed. If I remember correctly I read the book in one session: curled up on the couch, ignoring everything from the ringing phone to my slightly miffed husband who kept casually pulling on my sleeve to try to get my attention. (He soon learned that whenever a new book came out he should just extricate himself from my surroundings for a day or two. He’s a good husband.)
Planning a party based on this book became an almost insurmountable job -- there was just so much to draw upon. About this time, the Scholastic version had come out, and so after returning my client’s copy, I purchased my own and went to town with a yellow highlighter. The thing was, like Harry discovering the wizarding world in itself, the book just held so much creative fodder for a party, that my mind was spinning. By the time I’d read through the second time, the book was so marked up, it looked like a college study guide... there was just sooo much good stuff.
I immediately created letters which I rolled, attached to paper bag owls, and hand delivered to people’s doorsteps as the invitation. People came to the party without the slightest idea of what they were getting into -- they had no idea what to expect (Potter fever had not quite spread at this point). When people arrived at the door they were greeted by me in a fat suit holding a picture frame. They had to give the password (“Jodi is 7”) before I would allow them to enter. Upon entry they were given a robe (I had gone thrift store shopping, and cleared out every Goodwill sleep section in a 5 mile radius) and a witch’s hat (thank you Oriental Trading). The guests made magic wands out of tree branches wrapped with fancy wire (which I called magical binding thread), beads, and feathers (after the second book I would add tape to the mix). They made tiny stuffed sock owls, cats, rats, and frogs. We played a game of “Get Past the Goblin” to get their gold from the bank. Then, we went to school.
The children were sorted into houses, attended a potions class, given flying lessons, taught how to play ground Quidditch, and then enjoyed a feast. After the feast they hunted for the Sorcerer’s Stone through a series of clues that ended with them having to hold a note up to a mirror. It was the most amazing party I’ve ever planned... way before all the merchandising and mayhem began... and quite possibly the most fun I’ve ever had planning a party.
This past Sunday morning, I snuck out to see the final movie. I sat in the darkened theatre all by myself and wept and laughed and said goodbye to a fantasy world that has become such an integral part of my soul, I might as well be a Horcrux.
I’m very sad to see this chapter of my life close. But I’m thankful to have lived in a time when I could be a part of this journey. I can only imagine that a similar correlation might be said about those who grew up with the Narnia or Oz series... But I doubt the feeling was quite the same... I think that JK Rowling created something magical and special that probably won’t be repeated for a long time to come. She tapped into something that effected both children and adults -- which is next to impossible to do -- and she did it with grace, humor, and imagination that goes way beyond anything I’ve ever experienced before.
I’ll miss you Harry... I really will.