Hogwarts Express Train Harry Potter

Falling in Love with the Boy Who Lived

Most of us know who that boy is and all about his adventures at a school we can’t decide if we’d actually want to go to. It’s so ingrained in our collective culture by now that even if you haven’t been sorted into a house, you know something about J.K. Rowling’s marvelous world of wizards and magical creatures. It’s a powerful responsibility to usher another generation into Harry’s world. Miss O was a little young for Hogwarts when she was first introduced to Harry Potter, but she dove in deep and hasn’t looked back yet.

Miss O’s introduction to Hogwarts and its most famous student came only slightly ahead of our intended schedule. I was set to go to a conference in Orlando and, if I timed my ticket right, I’d be able to have a free afternoon on the last day. As it turned out, the conference was also holding a party on the night before the last day in both Universal Studios and Universal Islands of Adventure theme parks.

I love both Universal parks and because I lived in Orlando for many years, I’ve been in both of them several times, but I left Orlando before the Harry Potter sections of the park were complete. It seems Hubs is always looking for a reason to go to Orlando and see our friends, so I wasn’t surprised at all when he immediately suggested he fly down with Miss O and meet me there for a quick family trip. We knew that most of either Universal park was too old for Miss O, who was definitely not ready for the Incredible Hulk rollercoaster, but Dr. Seuss land and the cartoon play areas were still right about her speed. All I really cared about was getting to see the Harry Potter sections and I was dying to go.

Please kitty puss in boots begging

It turned out I wasn’t the only one at work thinking of such an adventure and I once I got the ok from my supervisors, we started planning our adventure. We didn’t see the sense in Hubs and Miss O flying down for only one day, so we arranged for them to come down so they’d have a few days and enough time to do a few things to make the trip more worthwhile.

We knew Disney was out of the question. We didn’t have time to do everything we would have wanted to do there and we had promised our family we’d make Miss O’s first trip to Disney World a joint trip with when her cousin, Mr. A was old enough to enjoy it, too. There’s no way we would have been able to afford that anyway.

Miss O had never been to SeaWorld and we knew how much she adored animals, so Hubs bought tickets for Miss O and himself to go to SeaWorld for one of the days I’d be in conference sessions. I wasn’t thrilled about missing out, but I’ve been to SeaWorld a million times and I knew they’d have fun. That gave them a day to hang out with some of our friends still living in Orlando the next day while I was still in sessions.

Unfortunately, we discovered that the conference party on the last night was an attendee only event, so Hubs and Miss O would not be able to join me in the parks. Fortunately for us, Hubs worked at the Universal theme parks in Orlando for many years and still has friends working there. One of those friends was incredibly generous and gave us three two-park tickets, allowing us to get into Universal Studios and Universal Islands of Adventure for our last day in Orlando. THANK YOU, QUEEN B!!!

Thank you Lady Gaga Gif

After thinking about it a bit more, we realized that Miss O would get this amazing experience with almost no context in which to appreciate anything she was seeing. How can you fully enjoy Olivander’s wand shop if you’ve never read how the wand chooses you?! We decided we needed to start Miss O’s magical education and get her letter from Hogwarts ready earlier than expected.

It had been years since I opened my hardcover copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone that had been dutifully waiting on the bookshelves in Miss O’s playroom. From the first few pages, Miss O was fully enraptured by the story. I had forgotten how much I loved the no-nonsense way in which the story unfolds. It doesn’t coddle you by dancing around how Harry came to be in that cupboard under the stairs. You have to be ready to read it and willing to accept whatever comes at you from the very start. We had moments where we were unsure if, at just past five years old, it might be a bit much for Miss O, but by that time she had seen almost every one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and never once flinched. Our girl had a taste for fantasy and magic and she wanted more.

We had just enough time before our trip to finish the first book and the second book, giving her enough of a foundation to squeal with delight at finding out we’d be visiting a place where you can go into Hogwarts, drink Butterbeer, and eat a real chocolate frog. Her only reservation was making absolutely sure there were no Basilisks lurking about.

Liz Lemon 30 Rock No thank you please gif

We had an amazing trip and while she may have been a bit young to appreciate everything, we all had a fabulous time. Miss O came home clutching her stuffed Hedwig and replica Hermione wand intent on finishing the series, as long as there were no more Basilisks, of course.

Miss O is a girl of many fandoms and after a bit of a break from Harry Potter to enjoy the Kindergarten cult favorites Jack, Annie and their Magic Treehouse along with a bit of Rainbow Fairies, we’ve now returned fully committed to Hogwarts. At the time of this writing, we are halfway through the Order of the Phoenix.

I must admit, I wondered how Miss O would react to the loss of Cedric Diggory once we reached The Goblet of Fire, but she’s already suffered the loss of our dear cat, Beans, and I think in its own way, that loss helped her understand that part of the story a bit more than perhaps some other children would have. She certainly shed her share of tears for both. There’s no mistaking my girl’s empathy.

Cedrick Diggory Hufflepuff Harry Potter

#RIPCedric

After that, Hubs and I asked if she felt she wanted to continue with the books, making sure she knew that they get rather dark and there are a lot of not-so-nice people and situations that come up. We didn’t want her to lose her love of the series because we rushed her in to something she wasn’t ready for. Sometimes, in our excitement, we forget she’s not yet seven. Resolved to see it through to the end, Miss O wasn’t giving up so quickly. “I can handle it, Mommy.” Very well then, ten points to Gryffindor.

We’ve enjoyed reading the stories again and listen as we take turns reading them out loud so you can hear it almost through the whole house. Go ahead and put that on the list of positives for a small house. It’s wonderful to see her crave more chapters and delight in meeting new characters. Her love of Harry shifts to a deeper love of Hermione, solidified with an eye role each time she hears Professor Trelawney’s name. She’s even decided to change her next birthday party theme to Harry Potter.

We’ll see how Miss O manages the last three books. On a recent visit to our local used book store, I found a copy of The Cursed Child, so there’s also an eighth book awaiting her now, but not until Hubs and I have both read it and decided if it should immediately follow after the Deathly Hallows or wait until Miss O a bit older. Like any Gryffindor, she’ll tell us she’s ready for anything, but she’s stuck in a house of Ravenclaws and we’re smart enough to test the waters before you dive in.

I don’t regret starting the books, though if I could do it over, I would have waited a year or two until we did. Miss O is truly ready for them now in a way she just wasn’t at the time of our trip. Her understanding is greater and her questions more curious. I only wish we could do Universal again now that her context is so much richer. I’d love to watch Miss O experience the magic of those parks again and really let her love of the books shine. Perhaps she’ll get an invitation to Hogwarts again someday. She has been practicing with her wand so very hard and she’s become quite a fan of Quidditch.

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