It’s the same reason I flip to the celebrity section of a magazine when I think no one’s looking, why I’m on a first-name basis with the local librarian, why I still wish on every dandelion, birthday candle, and shooting star that I might finally meet King Arthur. I love stories.
Ever since I can remember, my family has read stories out loud. First, short tales, like the works of Hans Christian Andersen or the Grimms Brothers’ (and I don’t mean the white-washed, Disney versions. The Little Mermaid lost her soul and killed herself, while the Matchstick Girl died on the streets, cold and alone).
For years my family read aloud, but the highlight of storytime came with our discovery of Harry Potter. Right at the beginning, we made a vow: we would read every book in this series as a family. No peeking ahead.
At first, the promise was easy to keep. While reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, my family adopted a radio-show style performance. We read from three different copies, my father as booming Hagrid with a Scottish brogue or a slow, deep-voiced Dumbledore; my stepmother as clipped Professor McGonagall or breathy Professor Trelawney; my brother as dashing Harry, and myself as sharp Hermione or, (oddly enough) the jovial, womanizing “Professor Lockhart, at your service.”
As the years passed, finishing my homework or hanging out with friends became more important than reserving half an hour before bedtime for fairy tales, so storytime ended. With the exception of Harry Potter. When Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire came out right before a backpacking trip, my dad carried it along and we read nightly under the stars and mosquitos. (To understand this sacrifice, one must know that my dad is a light-weight backpacker who cut the handle off his toothbrush to save a third of an ounce). The arrival of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince tested my family’s patience; I was at an art camp in Portland when it was published, and they had to wait until I returned. By far the hardest, however, was the last book. Everyone I knew had finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows within a week, but because we limited ourselves to an hour a night, it took my family over two months to read. It was the best book I ever read, and not because of the writing. Forced to listen to every word, I caught the foreshadowing, the descriptions, the subtleties of the dialogue. I caught the essence of the story.
I wouldn’t call myself superstitious. I don’t throw salt over my shoulders, avoid walking under ladders, or close my umbrella outside of my door. Yet I can’t help but wish on every shooting star. I believe in taking every, tiny chance that might finally bring my stories to life.
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