Saturday, July 21, 2007

Midnight Date With Harry

My wife, my son and I spent last night doing what a lot of other people across the country did: hung out a book release party at the local Barnes & Noble bookstore. Of course, it was a special event - to mark the midnight release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the final book in the best selling series. It warms my heart to see so many folks, especially those my son's age and all, so excited for the release of a book. This isn't the latest in video game technology and a fancy-schmancy phone that can do everything you ever wanted and more. This is a stor, words on pages that they have to use their imaginations to enjoy! I've always had a love for reading, and I love it when I see others share that too - even if it might be isolated to certain book series and such. Baby step, baby steps.

Though the first Harry Potter book came out in the United States in 1998, our household really didn't get into them until early 2001 - just before the first movie was to come out. My son, age six at the time, had expressed an interest in the books. My wife picked up the first one of the series in hardcover and began reading it to him as a bedtime story. Having devoured the first, she decided to pick up the remaining three that were available as well - reading them first herself and then introducing them to him as well. When my son wanted to read them himself, we picked up paperback copies as well so that he could tote them to and from school, etc. His teachers all recognized the merits of the books and allowed the children to read them as part of their daily reading requirements. And my view was at least he was showing interest in a series of books. Prior to this, he saw reading as a chore to be done ten to fifteen minutes a night for school. I was more than willing to let him give these a try. He has since shown interest in other fantasy lines and some sci-fi (mostly Star Wars tie-in stuff). When books five and six came out in the more recent years, we would pick them up within a few days of release (after finding them for a good price).

Now, I haven't personally read any of the novels yet, but that is in part due to my always having so much stuff to read. I have a pile of paperbacks as well as comic reprint collections that keep calling to me. I knew the Potter series would be finite in length, so I've sort of held off until the last one came out. That way, I can do a marathon run and read them all back to back to back without having to pause for the next release. I have seen the first four films; our family truly enjoys going to the theatre together for films that are appropriate for our son's viewing. So, I do have a general gist of things going on. I know the books will provide a much richer subtext - especially in some of those tomes that clock in over 600 pages.

To truly make the night a special event for us, we started off by going to see the fifth film, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The local theatre only had three showings to chose from. 5:30pm was going to be too early to pull off. 9:30pm was going to be too late at the film clocks in at 2 hours and 18 minutes, not counting the obligatory 20+ minutes of previews and such before the film (we'd end up getting to the bookstore too late for the fun). So, we settled on the 8pm showing. Just to be safe, we picked up tickets early for the show, ran to dinner, and right after stopped at the bookstore to see if they were giving out numbers for folks who pre-ordered. Turns out they were - and that we ended up with number 223. Okay, so we're covered. We then went and enjoyed the movie.

As we returned back to the store around 10:30pm, we noticed the parking lot was overflowing with cars and people - a huge plaza area really. I dropped my wife and son off and proceeded to park down the hills at the Sam's Club. Then I hiked back up, through the IHOP lot and found them in front of the store. Now, my wife gets claustrophobic in crowds, so this was a challenge to say the lease. I offered to take my son inside to see the doings there. Inside was just as packed and crazy. They had activities through out the night - magic shows, face painting, etc. - but things were winding down at this point. They wanted everyone out of the store by 11:15pm so they could start to set up for the selling of the book. Lots of folks dressed in costumes too. From witches to Hogwarth's student gear. All very nice, very festive.

We got back outside, talked to other folks also waiting. People getting books for themselves, for their wives or kids. Just like us. A whole common bond thing. We waited a bit and then I moved closer to hear the announcements from the door. At 11:45pm they called out numbers 1 through 50. I saw people around us with numbers in the 700's and 800's. Man, this was huge. Hung out a bit more, went back and forth to the family. Then I find out from someone that they were on to the 300's a few minutes later! I quickly notify Terri so she can make her way into line while I stood with my son. From the windows outside, we could see them snaking people into and around the inside of the store. We found a spot by the cafe door where they would have folks exiting. Time to watch the clock. 11:50. 11:55. Boxes would get cracked at 12:01.

By 12:03, people began to come out - the first lucky ones here in Hickory. And then it just was a steady stream of folks. As I stood there, I overheard two older men in the 60's or so just shaking their heads at the whole thing. I don't think they had ever seen anything like this before. And I watched the door too - to watch the faces. And those faces spoke volumes! Joy, rapture, elation, excitement. A few plopped right down on the curb and started to read. Others clutched their books like a prized possession. A book - this is about a book. What a true joy! The joy reading and anticipation of reading can bring to folks. It really was amazing to see.

My wife came out with our copy about 12:30pm. We hiked back to the car and drove the five minutes home. While my son went off to bed, I walked the dogs. When I came back in, my wife had already started reading. I went downstairs and found the other six hardcovers - putting them aside in my room to read soon (I promise). I then came upstairs, quickly ran through my taped Best Week Ever and then we went up to bed. My wife was still sleeping when I fell asleep at 1:30pm.

A book. Magic. That's what it's all about.

Update: I should note that my wife finished reading the book on Saturday night before going to bed. I knew once she started it that she couldn't put it down. She really enjoyed it. I guess I better get started on the series, eh?

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