Harry Potter and the Trip Through Time

Last week I loaded Harry Potter and the Cursed Child onto my kindle app, excited to read it on the train ride to my parents’. I didn’t expect it to live up to the original series or anything, but I figured it would be a fun read, and what could be a more perfect place to read Harry Potter than a train? In my head, I was basically rocking Platform 9 3/4.

I’m not gonna lie–the first couple pages had me cringing a bit. The dialogue felt a little clunky, and I just wasn’t sure I’d be able to get into it…. But the plot picked up quickly, and I felt myself getting sucked into the adventure. I kept reading. It was like when you see an old friend after years apart, and it’s a little awkward as you’re trying to figure out this new person. You kind of see glimpses of the person you remember, but aren’t completely sure whether you’re still friends… But then you work through the awkward and find your new rhythm, because you remember how much you actually love each other. That was me and the Hogwarts gang. They’ve changed, and I’ve changed, but being reunited feels so good.

The book that lived...
The book that lived…

I didn’t fully appreciate just how appropriate the time and place was for reading this new Harry Potter, though, until the next day as I read the last few pages. By that point, I wasn’t just reading for plot anymore; I was fully wrapped up in the humanity and heart that our wizard friends offer, feeling all the feels. Suddenly, I realized that I was sitting in the exact same spot–my bedroom at my parents’ house–as the last time I read a brand new Harry Potter book.

When I both eagerly and reluctantly read the last in the original series, it was July 2007, and I was a hot mess. My parents had just moved from the only house my family had ever lived in. I’d just graduated and left BYU. Being a person who doesn’t handle change well, it really threw me to be uprooted from all the places, and most of the people, I’d ever known as “home,” all at the same time. I was interviewing for jobs, but didn’t know where or if I’d land. The future was a foggy black hole. I had a shiny new teaching degree, so I was interviewing for teaching jobs, but I’d hated student teaching. I wasn’t at all convinced that I had what it takes to be a decent teacher, and I was pretty sure I’d never be happy doing it. But what are you supposed to do when you’ve just invested five years and a zillion dollars into a degree you then think was a mistake? Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was a great way to escape reality for a day or two. But then it ended, just like every other era in my life had just ended. Did I mention I was a hot mess?

A couple days after finishing Deathly Hallows, I interviewed with Whitford. The job was different than all the others I’d been applying for, but it also felt so much more right. I wanted that job. And I got that job.

And then I blinked, and it was 2016, and I was back in that same room, reading Harry Potter. There was never going to be more to Harry’s story, but it turns out “never” was a strong word. (I prefer #always anyway…)

I was never going to make it in teaching, but here I am, about to start year ten, and I’ve done more than just survive teaching. I’ve lived it, slept it, and breathed it. I’ve found passions and areas of growing expertise within my teaching world that I never would have guessed. I’ve amassed a list of hundreds of kids–not all of them such kids anymore–who I love dearly. I can confidently say that I’ve made a difference for at least some. I laugh every day. Maybe it wasn’t a mistake…

I was afraid I’d never find a place that felt like home again. But I dropped my roots onto Oregon soil, and they like it there. It’s still a struggle sometimes to be alone and feel like I actually belong in a place with no family. But it’s a really good place, filled with really good people. I have communities that I’m grateful and proud to be part of. I have friends and connections that I treasure. And as half the country, unfortunately, seems to have discovered, Portland is just really cool!

Gave my heart to Oregon, then pinned in on my bag.
Gave my heart to Oregon, then pinned it on my bag.

I was sure that my parents’ new house in the middle of nowhere was never going to be home…. and, well, that’s still mostly true. I can’t visit without getting homesick for our real home. But, funny thing, becoming an aunt has helped a little. There’s been life and memories attached to the house now. That’s where I spent hours cuddling those sweet babies. I just spent a week hiding, seeking, and running around like a crazy person with my cutie pie niece in all random corners of the house. This is a house they’ll look back on nostalgically someday when they’re remembering their own childhood. My 2007 self didn’t imagine ever caring much about the next generation in Harry Potter’s world. And had no idea how deeply in love I’d be nine years later with the next generation in my own family.

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The first time I finished Harry Potter forever at my parents’ house, I couldn’t see where my life was about to go, and it terrified me. This time, as I finished the turns-out-it-wasn’t-forever Harry Potter, I had to smile about all the unexpected directions it’s taken. If I had been able to see my future, I wouldn’t have recognized it. How could I have recognized the 32-year-old version of myself who would color her hair like a peacock, earn an IMDb page, become a minister-by-the-powers-of-the-internet, write stuff on a blog that eleventy billion people would read, and occasionally ask herself if life in Nebraska would be so bad? (Ok, there aren’t that many regular readers of my blog…. But some days it feels like it.) And who knew that version of me would be reading a new Harry Potter book?

Life is weird. I should stop trying to predict it.

When the tragedy hits way too close to home…

This really, really isn’t what I wanted to write about this weekend. But after pushing through and doing all of this weekend’s have-tos, I’m finding this to be the only thing I can write about….

Like everyone who calls Mukilteo home, I’m thinking about the shooting that happened late Friday night. I don’t want to write the details; you can read about it at the link, or plenty of other news sources.

My peer group and I are reeling. We didn’t know the people involved, but shave off a few years, and we would have known them. We basically were them.

They went to Kamiak High School. So I’m remembering Kamiak. I remember feeling pretty safe and protected from the world most of the time; we were 90s kids in an idyllic town overlooking the Puget Sound, and I don’t think lockdown drills were a thing yet.

But you know what else I remember? I remember the bookends to my KHS years–freshman year was Columbine (Remember how that was a tragedy we’d never imagined, not “oh no, another school shooting?”), and senior year was 9/11 (Remember how that felt so impossibly surreal and nobody knew what to do next, instead of “Here come the pundits, seizing another chance to make the same political arguments as always, and everybody will have added a filter to their profile photo within an hour…?”). The world wasn’t safe then either, and we were just starting to realize it. We were teenagers, still kids, and we didn’t know what to do with that kind of fear. But we were also teenagers, on the brink of becoming adults, and the world was asking serious questions about how to become a safer place while maintaining the freedoms we treasure as Americans… and we were starting to realize it would be our responsibility to answer them.

You know what else I remember? I remember the choir room. The safe space. When life was too much to deal with, choir was always comfortingly predictable. Always the same people, in the same routines. We went on a retreat in the woods every fall, sang the Messiah and Carol of the Bells every winter, and went on some big trip every spring. We made beautiful music and memories together. It’s almost cliche to refer to the “choir family,” but I realized how extended that family is when I went back to visit several years later. The kids didn’t just follow all the same routines I remembered, they’d heard of my class! “You were one of the blesseds?!” Yes, I was. Yes, I am.

The shooting involved choir kids. That means they’re extended family. When I watch videos of them singing, I just have to close my eyes, and I can see my own generations of choirlings, plain as day.

You know what else I remember? Coming home from college in the summers, and reuniting with friends. Having people to “catch up” with made us feel a tiny bit adult, while falling into old patterns made us feel like we’d never really grow up, or maybe wish that we didn’t have to. Exactly the same as these college kids were doing Friday night. On the same street they were partying on. The only thing separating us from them is time.

You know what else I remember? The Harbour Pointe LDS Church building. I went to church there, youth activities there, early morning seminary there. I got to know God there. I felt the love of being part of a giant church family there. It was a refuge.

It was also the gathering place for kids and their families after Friday night. It hosted a vigil on Sunday night.

You know what else I remember? Every single mass shooting since I became a teacher. Every lock-in, lock-out, lock-down, whatever they’re calling them this year, drill since I became a teacher, all of which stir up memories of those shootings. Because now it’s not just about feeling unsafe; now it’s worrying about the safety of the kids. Kids who I love like my own. Kids who trust me to keep them safe. Kids whose families trust me to keep them safe. And on a regular, day-to-day basis, I do a pretty good job of it. Most kids feel safe enough in my room to express themselves, to make mistakes, to have fun, to ask for help, to try things, to share bad news, to share good news, to be themselves. But what about when I can’t keep them safe? What about the stuff I can’t protect them from?

Those kids in Mukilteo had some of the same teachers I had. And those teachers are living one of my nightmares right now.

You know what else I remember? Every kid I’ve taught that was holding onto some deep and unresolved issues. Emotional issues, psychological issues, issues that clouded the light in their eyes. Kids who got everything I had to give and services from those more qualified than myself, but it never seemed like enough. They might be the bullied, or the bullies, or both, or neither. Kids that were hurting somehow. Kids that might be capable of hurting others one day, especially if they have easy access to a weapon. I hurt for them when they were my students, and if the worst should ever happen, I’d hurt for them then too.

Those same Mukilteo teachers are living that nightmare also.

I don’t know how to end this post. A plea for better gun laws? For better mental health services? To stop hate and remember love? Do I express my love for the communities that I’ve found homes in? Do I express my faith that God is still with us? Hope for a better tomorrow? Despair for how the todays feel like they keep getting worse? Condolences to the families and those close to them?

All of those things. But… I don’t have closure right now, so I can’t write closure. Just… here we are.