This is another post from the archives (of a previous blog), but I love it so much I decided I’d repost it here, 4 years to the day after these events unfolded. It’s funny, because I have no pictures of that day – I totally forgot my phone!
I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to put this post together. It’s long and wandering, and, I hope, has just a touch of magic.
I think I’ve alluded to it before, but my daughter and I read the Harry Potter books together. Not, together, like, I sat on her bed and read them while she listened; and not together, like, I had a copy and she had a copy and we sat on couches in the living room doing synchronized reading. Together, like, we read through them at approximately the same time.
It was my second time reading through them, but, as Liv was young, and none of her friends had read them, I wanted her to have someone to process the books with, to debate and discuss and determine what she thought about them. We’d read a book, and then take practice AR tests on it together, and then we’d watch the movie that corresponded with the book.
For hours and hours we’d debate who was the greatest wizard of all time? Who was braver, Sirius or Snape? What would it be like if there was a real Ministry of Magic? Should we adopt a snowy owl? What do you think Diagon Alley smelled like?
And it was with great fanfare that we sat in the living room and watched videos where the kid that played Draco in the movies unveiled plans for a Harry Potter theme park. And right then, in a scene (almost) straight out of Thelma and Louise, we joined hands and resolved to go.
Fast forward to “Spring 2010″ which, evidently, Universal barely squeezed in (Summer, 2010 started on June 22nd or something, and The Wizarding World opened on June 18th, so, yes, technically spring. But not really. Not in Florida.). We make the pilgrimage (’cause that’s what it was) to the King Kong Level of the Universal Parking Garage, walk through CityWalk, redeem our tickets, and stand in line somewhere around the giant Betty Boop*.
*it should be a testament to my grandparents and teachers that I somehow know who Betty Boop is. I don’t remember ever learning about her/it, I just somehow know. Maybe everyone knows, intrinsically somehow. Me, I just feel like my grandmother told me. Or my 3rd grade teacher. It’s not important. In fact, I shouldn’t have even asterixed it. Oh well. Too late now.
Now, I could regale you with all the details of how long we stood in line*, and how awesome the Forbidden Journey was*, or my take on the food*, or the butterbeer*, or Honeydukes*, but this post isn’t really about that. This post is about Ollivander’s wand shop*.
*a long, long, long, time
*very, very, very, awesome
*the food was pretty good; like rotisserie chicken from the Publix deli
*the butterbeer, when frozen, is pretty magical stuff
* Honeydukes, was, in a word, crowded. And pretty authentic.
* keep reading, I’m getting to the part about Ollivander’s
So, it’s probably 1:30 in the afternoon on June 21st, and we are standing in line for Ollivander’s Wand Shop. I’d read all the reviews and heard that the wand shop had a cool little show, and you really don’t want to miss it.
And so we stood. And an hour passed.
It’s funny to look at the village of Hogsmeade when it’s June. I mean, it looks spot on perfect to what you see in the movies. Your eyes realize it’s a perfect match, down to the snow on some of the roofs.
Only, your brain has trouble putting that all together, as it’s 95 degrees, and the snow seems terribly out of place in the Florida heat.
Another hour passed. We were now into the “rope line” portion of the wait, which is encouraging, but also misleading. It’s encouraging, because you weren’t in the rope line before. It’s discouraging, because rope lines are constructed in a manner to pack people as closely together as possible, deceiving you once again into thinking you’re closer to the front than you really are.
Now we can see the door.
I’ve read that they select someone from the audience to participate in the show. I think how cool it would be if Liv got selected. I look around at the group we’re likely to shuffle in with. Hmmmm. Lots of kids. This is gonna be tough.
We’re the next group. Wait, what is that woman doing? She’s asking if she can cut in line and go in? She doesn’t speak very good English? Wait, the prefect guarding the door speaks Spanish! Day saved!
It’s our turn.
We walk into the chilly room and our guide asks us to cram over as far as we can against the wall. As my eyes adjust to the light, I look around to see wand boxes everywhere, with display cases highlighting some of the most famous wands.
Finally, the door closes, 25 or so of us, sweaty and smelly and giddy with excitement, all crammed into this tiny room, and a man, gaunt and robed, up on a ladder, turns and crassly says “I’ll be with ya in a minute”
He comes down the ladder, and meanders through the crowd, looking at his list, muttering to himself.
We exchange glances, a little bit of “this is so cool” and a little bit of “this dude might be off his rocker.”
The other kids in the room, each certain they’re going to be chosen, crowd toward the old man.
All of a sudden, he turns around in a tornado of robes and dust, and says, pointing at Olivia, “You there? What’s your name?”
“YES! YOU’RE THE ONE! Come with me!”
And Liv glanced at us nervously, but followed him up to the wand counter. I mean, we knew enough about Harry Potter that you didn’t want to cross Mr. Ollivander.
He stood there and measured her and eye’d her. She giggled and turned around to look at us. Unsure, but safe, she went along with him.
“You’re here to choose a wand, right?” he asked . . .
“Well, as you know, the wand chooses the wizard, not the other way around. Let’s take a look at what we have here for you”
He chose the first wand, and handed it to her, reciting some of the specs of the wand.
“Using this wand, I want you to open that drawer”
Liv turned and glanced my way, skeptical. But, ever obedient, she pointed the wand at the drawer.
And to her utter amazement, all of the drawers in the place started snapping opened and closed.
This time, when she turned my way, her look was less skeptical pre-teen, and more “wow, there may actually be something to this magic thing.”
“That’s not the right one. Here try this one. It has a Unicorn hair and is made of willow. Point it at that bell and make it ring one time”
She took the wand and aimed it, and the bell rang repeatedly. Everyone laughed. Flashbulbs were popping everywhere.
“We’re getting closer. How . . . about . . . this one.”
He went into his schtick about this wand, displaying it to her as your optometrist office would help you pick out glasses.
As the wand was placed into her hand, we’re a little foggy on the details. Some say a light shown down on her. She promises that a wind blew her hair, although, I think that may have just been chills.
A lot went through my mind that day. I didn’t entirely have all the money I wanted to take that trip. It was a stretch. And I thought about the past couple of years, of the toll the separation and divorce had taken on her, hide it though she might. I thought about taking her to her first doctor’s appointment, all by myself, and how much she’d grown, and here she stood, looking more like a young lady than a little girl, sitting between reality and magic, and wanting so hard to believe, but not knowing for sure.
And as she turned one final time in that cold, musty room, and our gaze met, I saw it in her eyes; they widened and then relaxed, with the realization that, in that moment, I believed in magic as much as she did.
So now, if you walk in my living room, you’ll see a dusty burgundy box sitting on one of my bookshelves, next to the Harry Potter books.
And laying there, proudly displayed in front of it, is that wand that chose her.