Harry Potter and the hundred houseguests

Posted: Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Harry Potter, along with many friends and family, will share our house this summer. I hover somewhere between a Harry Potter fan and fanatic, so I am waiting impatiently for the seventh book. Recently Time Magazine wrote about what J. K. Rowling's publishers are calling "the moment:" when Harry's following holds that final book in their hands feeling both joyful anticipation and maybe even disbelief that the journey is over.

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I get this. When Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix came out, my daughter was an infant and I was chained to the couch. That's how it felt anyway, since she nursed every two hours, day and night. No one I knew had tiny kids at the time, so I felt isolated in my sleep deprivation and shock at the magnitude of being a parent. I neglected to preorder the book (sleep deprivation, you know) and since Seldovia lacks a bookstore, I was out of luck. However, my best friend had ordered two, and knowing my emotional state, presented me with a little Amazon box decorated in lightning bolt lettering at the post office. Clutching that box, it didn't matter how this story unfolded; whatever Rowling penned was a gift I was happy to accept.

At home I resumed my exile to the couch. I was an English teacher during my pregnancy and read aloud to students every day, so my read aloud voice put my otherwise sleepless daughter out like a light. I sat, tiny infant on my lap, reading aloud each word of the book, lulling her to sleep and myself into Hogwarts, my only escape during that transitional time.

As I write this, my uncle and my husband are installing new windows in my house to replace filthy, ancient, leaky ones. It is noisy, so noisy I can't continue my one final read of book five before the movie this week. But through the new windows, I can see clearly, and not just my yard. I am willing to accept J.K. Rowling and her brood into my home no matter what the end of the story brings. Happiness, sorrow, joy, anxiety; I understand that is why I read these books, to bring these characters to life. But really, I don't need to look very far for characters of my own, each bearing their own gifts. How many people have houseguests who go to Home Depot four times before even seeing the glacier? And coach my husband through replacing those windows in my mosquito-infested yard? This is the gift he bears; though it is not the gift I expected, it is one I happily accept.

This is true for my other guests as well; my best friend's mother and her partner, my brother and his wife, my mother and her new companion and even those friends of my mother's we have hosted this summer. We have no shortage of characters. And as for happiness, sorrow, joy and anxiety - well, we can go toe to toe with the Hogwarts gang. Though the accumulation of time and drudgery of being on company behavior has been exhausting in my one bathroom home, I try to embrace the gifts each of them brings, even if it is not the one I asked for. Just the same way I will welcome Harry in a few days.

• Marie Ryan McMillan is a parent and teacher in Juneau.

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