Last night, I witnessed something extraordinary.
No, it wasn’t a comet soaring across the sky, the replay of the 2004 Red Sox, the 2001 Patriots, nor even an episode of Man v Food.
No, this was magic, pure and simple.
Most Friday nights, the family gathers in the living room to watch a movie. My boys are still of an age where they enjoy hanging out with their parents, and genuinely want to share time together. So it’s important to pick a movie that we will all like, and possibly discuss afterward. At the very least, popcorn and candy are moral imperatives, and grease the wheels when one or the other son isn’t on board with the movie choice.
Last night’s offering was The Prisoner of Azkaban. For those unfamiliar with this movie, it’s the adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s _Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban_ novel. And if you still aren’t familiar with this, then you probably live inside a cardboard box buried at the bottom of the sea. Rowling’s work is the gold-standard for magical adventure whose wide appeal to both children and adults alike has spawned films, theme parks, clothing lines, role-playing and video games, food, and a cult following (of which I am a proud member) the likes of which may never be seen again.
(Yes, I do wax hyperbolic, but I may have understated the above, all the same.)
My eldest finished reading the novel a couple of days ago, so the story was fresh in his mind. My youngest, also an avid reader, hadn’t touched the book yet, but has seen the entire Harry Potter film series several times over. They own wands, engage in wand duels with me or each other (Expelliarmus!), and have started collecting Harry Potter Blind Boxes (don’t ask). While not true, hard-core fans, they’re already steeped aplenty in Rowling’s wonderful world of wizarding.
Which brings me to last night.
As any follower of this Unblog knows, I’m nearly ready to indie-publish my first novel entitled _Bloodlines_. I’ve outlined here some of my fears and uncertainties, the occasional doubt and anxiety that wraps me up in its tentacles and squeezes the creativity out of me. I’m no different from every other would-be novelist out there hoping against hope that readers will dive into it and love it as much as I do.
Each novel, regardless of genre, possesses its own particular magic. This DNA is what all writers strive toward creating, shaping, developing and putting down on virtual paper. You spend years cultivating the story, changing words or scenes, to craft a story that will hopefully grow big, hairy legs and run roughshod over the literary landscape.
The hope is the story’s unique spark will capture and captivate its audience, so much that they’ll discuss it with their friends, or perhaps merely savor it alone, and allow the author’s thoughts, characters and plot to simmer in the mind’s stomach as the story is digested over time.
We all crave that magic, writers and readers alike. Because that’s precisely what it is, magic. An indefinable energy, powerful and elusive, subtle yet strong, and capable of turning even the most hardened realist into a smiling fan-boy. It’s that magic that every author tries to harness, instilling within each written word a bibbity-bobbity-boopy incantation whose purpose is to illuminate the reader’s imagination, and show them people, places and things that they would otherwise have never encountered.
Rowling is the master of this. And, in my humble opinion, she has no equal. Reams of essays and articles have been written about her, her titular character with the lightning scar, the world she created, and the phenomenon it has become.
Which brings me back to last night.
My youngest knows the over-arching storyline to Azkaban. He knows who the good guys are, the bad guys that are actually good guys, and how it all ends. He knows there are more books which follow, despite the harrowing danger Harry and his friends encounter.
Yet, he’s mesmerized all the same. The intensity of his grip upon his blanket while watching the rainy Quidditch match against House Slytherin. Who’s going to win? Will Harry catch the Golden Snitch? Or the fear written upon his face when Lupin transforms into the werewolf and attacks Harry and his friends. How will Harry escape?
And the joy, the sheer, unadulterated and purest of joys, that sparkles in his eyes when Harry shouts “Expecto Patronum!” to drive off the legion of Dementors intent upon stealing both his and Sirius Black’s souls.
That right there, my friends, is magic. I glanced at my youngest in the moment of that climactic scene. I watched the magic burst and sparkle in his eyes, the lights of the special effects playing across his face, the look of wonder, the smile, the exultation in Harry’s victory over the vile Dementors. My youngest shared that moment with Harry as if he were in that darkened forest with the young wizard. As if he had cast that spell through the wand he held in his hand at the precise moment Harry said the words.
A fictional character who, in my youngest’s imagination, is just as alive as he is, and will stay that way forever.
And I was fortunate enough to share that moment with my son.
I wish I could bottle it. Store it, and keep it safe, so I can bring it out whenever any of us are down or feeling blue.
Then I remembered something, a truth so simple, yet equally profound.
It’s what memories are for.
It’s why we have Friday Family Movie Night.
And it’s why I write.