Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Nov. 26, 2010

Muggles in a magical world

When we got to the theater, the line was already wrapped around the building. A few folks were in wizards' attire, but the majority of us were dressed in ordinary street clothes. In short, we were "Muggles" - the term used by wizards in the "Harry Potter" books to describe non-wizards.

We had assembled for the midnight premiere of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1" - the movie version of the first half of the seventh and final book in J.K. Rowling's series. As before, we Muggles were eager to once again enter the magical world of Harry Potter.

It was in the upper 30s and the wind was chilly, but it didn't dampen people's enthusiasm and good humor. Some were huddled together, while others were wrapped in flannel blankets.

"Oh, I wish I'd brought my blankie," oldest daughter Mariya said.

Looking around, I could see that I was one of the oldest there. I had originally thought I'd wait until another, much more reasonable, time to see the movie. But I changed my mind when my daughters suggested I go along. Mariya is 24 and Katie's 18th birthday was this week, so I know my time doing such things with them is probably short. Plus, we had attended previous Harry Potter midnight movie premieres and midnight book releases together in the past. It had become a tradition I didn't want to break.

Rowling's first book was published in the United States in 1998. Educators consider the book and its sequels important in improving literacy because of their popularity among young people. Philip Nel, a Kansas State University English professor and director of the graduate program in children's literature, created and teaches the popular course, Harry Potter's Library: J.K. Rowling, Texts and Contexts. His 2001 book, "J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter Novels: A Reader's Guide," resulted in extensive national publicity. Nel says he wrote the guide to encourage readers to appreciate Rowling's literary merits.

And my daughters certainly do. Mariya read each of the seven books as soon as they were available. She has read all of them three or more times.

"I loved the books before the movies were ever made," she said.

Katie saw the first movie before reading any of the books. But once she started reading them, she devoured every detail. She, too, has read every book several times.

"It's my childhood, Mom!" she told me.

And in a way, she's right. She was only six when Harry and friends began fighting off enemies inside and outside Hogwarts - the name of the school for the young wizards.

Katie particularly relates to Hermione Granger, one of Harry's best friends. In the fourth grade, Katie decided she wanted to be Hermione for Halloween. We braided her long, thick hair and then took out the braids so she'd have the same curly look that Hermione did. I added about eight inches of black felt to one of my black sweaters to make her a cloak. We painted a dowel rod brown to be her wand.

When we went to Manhattan's Westloop Shopping Center Halloween night, the influence of the Potter books was everywhere. I spotted six Harry Potters running from store to store collecting candy.

But Katie was the only Hermione. I wanted to get her picture with one of the Harrys, but she refused - keeping in character with Hermione's independent, stubborn streak.

And so it has gone over the years. As soon as the books were published, my girls wanted to be among the first in line. So too when the movies were released.

For the midnight release of the seventh book in July 2007, my two girls, sister Gaila, her daughters Gabriela and Larisa, and I went to a local bookstore to sample some of the "butter beer" concoction and to watch characters from the books show up. Within a few minutes, Professor Dolores Umbridge, Lucius Malfoy, Rita Skeeter and a Dementor entered the store. Katie was Bellatrix Lestrange and Larisa was Tonks, complete with purple hair.

At the midnight premiere of the sixth movie in July 2009, Mariya was a pink-haired Tonks and Katie was dressed as what she called a "random" Hogwarts student. Larisa had Mariya draw the Dark Mark on her forearm.

Still, not everyone in the family is an avid fan. When I suggested to husband Art that he join us at the movie theater, he just laughed. Art, whose inner clock says bedtime is at 10 p.m., said that while he knew we were eagerly anticipating seeing the thrilling adventures of Harry and crew, he was equally excited about the prospect of being sound asleep!

And we both had our wishes fulfilled. When Katie and I arrived home at 3 a.m., we could hear him snoring away.

Gaila shared a similar story. When they went to the movie, husband Humberto was awake just long enough to see the opening and closing credits!

I was dead tired the next day, yet I wouldn't have missed the magic for anything. There's only one movie left and that realization is a bit bittersweet because Harry has been such a big part of my girls' growing-up years. The end for us Muggles is near.

Left: Katie as Hermione in 2002; right: Gabriela, Gaila, Larisa, Mariya and Katie in 2004.

Katie's friend Stacey, Katie, Mariya and Mariya's partner Lacey this year.

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