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Posts Tagged ‘adolescence’

Much has been written over the last few days about the “Harry Potter generation”: those children — now teens or young adults — who grew up with J.K. Rowling’s fantasy novels as part of their lives, and who now face the wrench of discovering what life will be like without the continuing adventures of Harry, Hermione, Dumbledore, Hagrid, and the rest of the Hogwarts gang.

My daughter, Abigail, is 17 and she is one of these children.  Tonight she will go to the 12:01 AM screening of the last part of the Harry Potter saga, dressed as Hermione Granger, just as she did many years ago, for Halloween.  Then, Abby’s Hermione appeared as a young witch, complete with Hogwarts patch on her robe, custom-made broom and wand in hand.  Today, our Hermione will wear the dark skirt, Oxford shirt, grey cable-knit sweater, knee socks, and Hogwarts scarf that we have seen the teen Hogwarts pupils wear in the movie.  She’ll be accompanied by one friend dressed as Dolores Umbridge (a vision in pink, no doubt) and another portraying Harry Potter.  Snape may also make an appearance, I’m told.

What Ben and I are painfully aware of is that this is the beginning of the end of days.  Days of having a teenager living in the house, a child in public school, a dependent who we are charged with watching over.  A week ago, we marked the official beginning of ‘the year of lasts,’ as Ben calls it:  Abby’s last summer on Star Island as a member of a children’s program group.  She’ll be back to Star, gods willing, but it will be as a young adult, an employee, a woman with her own family – a child no more.

It’s the last summer before college, the last summer of free-and-easy, and, yes, the last opening of a Harry Potter movie. Abby decided to re-read the entire Rowling series before she saw this last film;  she is home as I write, finishing the final chapter of the final book.  It has been marked by laughter and many tears, as beloved characters meet their fate. These characters are her friends, her muses, and she will not say goodbye to them easily.

Years ago, Ben and I started reading Abby these books as bed time stories.  At first, she didn’t want to hear them.  She had somehow decided that they were math textbooks, and refused each time we tried to lure her into the books.  But we were eventually able to convince her that these were uncommon stories… about a magical wizard and his friends, about minotaurs and house-elves… and she, and we, succumbed to the magic.  We took summer trips to Canada listening to Jim Dale tell the stories; we queued up in line at bookstores or pre-ordered new books online so that they would arrive on the legal publication release date. Ben created a wand-making business, Preston and Wickes Wands of Distinction, which sold beautifully made, hand-crafted exotic wood wands to wizards and muggles alike.  We went to sleep dreaming of visiting Diagon Alley, we yearned to try chocolate frogs.

Now, Abby has mourned the end of the book and the series.  And, we all know, it’s not just because the story’s over.  It’s a piece of her life, and ours, too.  These kids may be known by demographers as “The Harry Potter Generation,” and they should be, for this amazing set of stories has shaped their years and their viewpoints, made them dream and believe and wonder in wondrous ways.

Abby as Hermione - Halloween, 2002

Ben and I can’t bring ourselves to run to the movie theatre right away to see the last film.  We want to string it out a little.   Probably, because we want to string out our younger daughter’s childhood a bit, too.

Oh, I will miss these books.  And I will miss that little girl I’ve loved for so long,  too.

Abby as Hermione, July 14, 2011

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…so begins the chorus of Pink’s song, “Who Knew,” which my sixteen-year-old daughter, Abby sang last night in Lexington High School’s (LHS) spring a capella jam.  I love the song, and I love that Abby is part of an a capella group (there are six at LHS).   Ben and I were in a capella groups in our colleges, and we know that the camaraderie that develops, not to mention musicality, is powerful and rich.  We’re glad that Abby is having a chance to experience this as well.

But if someone had said three years ago that Abby would be up there singing this solo, I would have doubted them.  The fact that she did it, and did it beautifully, is a tribute to her and the community in which we exist, giving credence to the African proverb, “it takes a village to raise a child.”

Abby was an extraordinarily outgoing small child.  She was known for walking up to complete strangers and kissing them on the knee, or starting up a conversation.  When we would travel, she would work the room at a restaurant, moving from table to table, chatting.  It was charming and engaging.

Like many kids, I suppose, she learned as she grew that one should not always be so fearless.  She became unsure of herself, painfully shy, afraid to take risks for fear of criticism or failure.  She also knew that she didn’t want to live life afraid, and so she committed to confront her insecurities.  With the support of those around her, breakthroughs occurred, sometimes small, sometimes huge.  She loved music, and in her freshman year in high school, she dug deep for the courage to audition for an a capella group.  She didn’t get in, but she worked like mad and tried again as her sophomore year began. Lo and behold, two groups wanted her.  She was over the moon, and chose the one she thought was the best fit.  Synchronistically,, the group’s called “Euphoria.”

Abby’s worked and worked on her singing, on having the courage to try out for a solo, on forming relationships with her co-singers.  And last night, there she was, singing the solo in “Who Knew.”  But there’s more to the story, more that makes me celebrate and want to shout to the heavens with gladness.  It turns out that the cause of the hoarseness and difficulty hitting some notes which she has experienced over the last several months is a cyst on her left vocal cord.  It’s treatable, but the diagnosis couldn’t have come at a worse time, right before the concert.  With the help of medical  professionals and again, a terrific circle of community and friends, Abby decided she wanted to go for it and not miss this opportunity.  Her a capella group worked out an arrangement of the song that included a harmony part, with another singer adding in the high notes and Abby staying on the melody.  The arrangement worked.  Beautifully.  Most of all, she had the guts and commitment to get up there and make it happen.

If someone had said three years ago that I’d be watching this girl stand in front of 600 or so people and sing a solo, I would have told them they were wrong.  And it’s a triumph.  Who knew?

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