from an article originally posted September 3, 2014…
When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty, I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up. ~C.S. Lewis
When I was in college, my dearest friend Amy babysat a dear professor’s family that had an evening ritual called “tiger time.” Amy came home to our room and told me of the delights of this family. Each evening the children pretended to be baby tigers as they jumped in bed with their mother, the mama tiger, and they would snuggle and read each night. As a babysitter, my dear friend was asked to step in for the mama tiger and perform the honorary task of tiger time—it delighted my dear Amy.
I remember feeling awed by this intentional love, amazed, and hopeful that I would one day love with such intention with my littles. I have to confess I started strong. I enjoyed tiger time with my two oldest children, but somewhere along the way, I lost my way. In the struggle of cancer, the struggle of busy, we forgot to be quiet together in my bed nest. We forgot the wonder of reading together. We filled our time with nonsense and forgot to wonder, imagine, delight in a story together. Sure we still cuddled, yes, books were read, but we lost the wonder of fiction. The age range of my children felt too impossible to find a middle ground in story. I was wrong. I was woefully and regretfully wrong.
Then I heard that my dearest Matt Morginsky read the entire Harry Potter series to his little loves. I chewed on the thought. I wondered if I could manage it. Then in the battle for my every breath, I turned to Jason and said one evening, I think at the end of my days I will be sad I didn’t read more to the children. There is something about giving voice to your greatest fears, your deepest sadness, your possible regrets. speaking them aloud motivated me to move from lazy to action. I am still here, I still have breath to breathe, why wouldn’t I simply begin? So I did. I started at the beginning: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I read it when I was a new teacher 15 years ago, but I am enjoying it utterly new with my littles.
I was not sure how your book would meet my large age range, but it meets us in such wonderful ways. Mostly, my loves are lost in the cadence of my reading. Many nights my guy is left to carry our sweet loves to bed after a particularly long chapter. My baby rarely makes it through two pages. She simply snuggles in for the warmth beside me, falling gently to sleep as I read and share your amazing gift of imagination and wonder with my tigers. She isn’t following the story, she simply knows this is the time she hears my loving voice and sits near to my love. My oldest swore you off when I would tempt her with your books—she is now the first to find the right place in my bed to hear the coming adventure in your words. She is eager, so eager for more of your story. My second born listens and takes in the details of your story. She and I talked over the particular rules of quidditch tonight at dinner. My son is captured, but like my baby is enjoying the lull of my voice in the night. Bedtime has become something beautiful where it has felt so strained for so many years. It’s this beautiful meeting of love. You have brought this joy to us. Thank you.
Last night I finished the chapter that ended in tenderness and felt so thankful for your writing. It was the moment Harry and Ron accepted Hermione as their friend. But from that moment on, Hermione Granger became their friend. There are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them. I loved this—the connection doing something hard together brings. We get that. We get hard. All of us. Hard done in community matters, it brings us all closer.
J.K., you have brought us together in a hard season. Cancer has limited what I am able to do with each day, but I fight each day to reserve the energy for one chapter with you and my loves. And it is energy well spent. Snuggled together, next to the warmth of one another, I share your words as I love my children. My heart is thankful for the wonder you have brought, the amazing imagination and understanding you bring to your characters. I am lost in your story, enjoying your humor, and loving creating voices for each character. Hagrid is my favorite voice to read aloud. Oh, he’s such a love. I can imagine him plunked down on my bed with my littles enjoying hearing a mama read aloud. He would be welcome with all his tenderness and wriggling pockets. He would fit right into my small tribe.
Miss Rowling, I once thought I would regret not having read a lot at the end of my days. You have helped me put that regret aside. You have brought together a wide range of children under my soft blanket at night. I brought your book on vacation, and my kids found the next book in the basket. They have all passed it around with wonder, excited to hear what is to come. We listen for your story, we pray together when reading is over, we kiss and love and calmly enjoy our sleep, a little lost in your story.
Reading aloud together is such a gift of love. We snuggle close, we listen for the plot, and we fall desperately in love with your characters. You have brought together a weary family, and I thank you. You have lifted the imaginations of some hurting children to wonder on a place utterly unlike the place they reside. Your words quiet us in the evening after all of our going. You have worked a special moment in wonder beside one another. Thank you. You give us a break from our story each night even for just a moment.
You and I who still enjoy fairy tales have less reason to wish actual childhood back. We have kept its pleasures and added some grown-up ones as well. ~C.S. Lewis
J.K. Rowling, thank you. You cannot know what a gift of connection you have brought to our family. We understand that the little moments in each day are the big moments in life. Dinner together, bath time, the slow work of learning to read, and quiet beside one another. We know the play world of our backyard and the wonder of our imaginations. We know the beauty of a hike, and the gift of running away together. Cancer has taught us to take each bite and enjoy it carefully, as meals quickly end, and the next thing is upon us. Our next things have been often difficult. There is this one slice among many wonderful slices in my day I savor. I particularly savor my time with you and my loves. It has become a delightful part of the meal of my day. Thank you.