That JK Rowling has a lot to answer for. For one thing, that wonderful school she conjured up, accessed from platform 7 ⅜ or whatever it was, fired imaginations all over the world. When we started reading about Harry and Hermione and Hagrid and the wands, there were only two books published: The Philosopher’s Stone and the one with the flying car on the cover. We read these in the afternoon on the sofa, listening to the wind, or all snuggled up together in bed. Our son was Harry’s age, 11 or so, and our daughter only a little younger.
Before we moved overseas (third or fourth international move, depending on where you start counting), we needed to find schooling for our babies – they were babies then – so unplanned and relatively unprepared, we sent them to boarding school at 9 and 11 years of age. It was not an easy decision. There were no suitable schools where we were going and at the brink of high school, it did not seem feasible or fair to attempt ‘home-schooling’. Believe me, they would have turned out bizarre delinquents if we’d gone down that path. The choice of establishment was limited as many are not co-educational, and even fewer take such young children.
When the prospectus for the school arrived, that JK Rowling was responsible for a huge amount of excitement. The school looked like Hogwarts sans turrets. The students wore elaborate uniforms, no cloaks or wands but there were houses which could stand in for Hufflepuff or Gryffindor, with colours and insignia; there was a clock tower and a gothic dining hall, playing fields: everything a young muggle-would-be-wizard could wish for. Imagination and near-hysteria turned to pleading and finally anticipation. JK Rowling had cast a spell that made my children forget about homesickness, strangers, distant parents and abandoned friends. ‘When can we start?’ echoed through the house.
None of us were prepared for how gut-wrenchingly hard it would be to say goodbye. On the drive to school, gloom descended on the front seat of the car. Quiet discussions could be heard behind us, with the odd giggle and quickly suppressed squeal.
After we left them, dragging ourselves off to face the long drive home, packing up the house and shipping ourselves halfway across the globe, again, we tried not to think about what we had done or to look over our shoulders at the empty back seat. We didn’t talk about anything connected to the matter at hand, only map directions, the price of petrol and similar inconsequentials.
About 20 kilometres into the journey something made me glance over the back seat to where the children had been strapped in a few hours earlier. Perhaps the silence or wanting to prove to myself they really weren’t there prompted me to look. That is when I spied Mersey, our daughter’s chief bear, and Nod, our son’s bear, and Reggie and Telford and PC Plod and all the other furry toys that had been forgotten.
All because JK Rowling failed to give that Harry Potter a bear to take to school.