Saturday, July 16, 2005

Potty Harry Potter Party

Well, our local Harry Potter Party hardly compared to having one at Edinburgh Castle with J.K. Rowling herself reading aloud at the strike of midnight, but ours was pretty darned fun, I must say.

My son and I were getting tired as early as 8:00 last night so the idea of making it to midnight seemed next to impossible. We attempted the "sleep early-wake up at midnight" concept but that didn't work at all. My kid knows me too well to imagine I would actually awaken him if he really fell asleep, so he didn't cotton to trying to nap in his room while I watched Washington Week in Review. He was hip to my jive and too excited to calm down anyway. Around 9:00 we decided the best play would be to go down to the bookstore with our shorty folding bright blue beach chairs, to see who was there, if the line had started to form, and use the stimulant known as "downtown" to keep us awake.

It was just about the perfect summer night, not to hot and not too cool. Only 15 or 20 people were already camped out in front of the local Waldenbooks. The rumors that the Starbucks and Peet's Coffee, a few doors down, would be open until 2:00am proved true and there were already a bunch of people in costume serving coffee at both establishment and many other witches wandering the streets. This event seemed a magnet for noisy middle school girls around 14 years old. They make odd squeaky noises and suddenly explode in girlful shouts, screams and hollers of exuberance shattering the perfect calm of a quiet summer night. I found myself thanking God I had a son several times last night.

I have a friend who works in the bookstore, who was required to dress up as one "Cornelius Fudge" complete with bowler hat, so he'd already given me the game plan. Bookstore closes at 9:00 to get ready and opens again precisely at 12:00 to sell this newest installment of the Potter series. In the meantime, the bricky streets were full of people having late summer dinners outdoors at Bertucci's, wandering around in front of the ice cream joint, Rancatore's and couples heading for the movies.

Did I mention what a thrill it was for a 10 year-old to be out and about on a summer night when he usually would already be asleep? Turning 10 seems to be a pivotal DOUBLE DIGIT pre-teen landmark for my kid and he is demanding all rights available as an almost teenager. And I'm a tough mom about bedtime curfew. I don't usually let it slip. There has to be a very unusual reason. His dad offers late night events out on a more regular basis, but not me. I'm an early bird and my house runs thusly. I feel like I've done most of my work by 9:00am, getting up often as not by 4:00am. This might have been one of the reasons our marriage ended in divorce, we seemed to live in different time zones, even when living under the same roof. His dad gets his energy going at noon, so bedtimes as late as 10:30pm at his house seem reasonable. I can't stand that concept. So last night was a victory for my kid the minute we stepped out the door past 9:00pm. Unprecidented!

With our chairs in place in the line and the cauldron or so of witches starting to brew in the streets, the party began. Don't ask me how many pair of those black circle Harry Potter signature spectacles I encountered last night -- I'll just say lots. Of course, for the moms and dads, I realized this uber-marketed evening was a good excuse to see what everyone's been up to, how their summers are going and no fewer than 4 families from our church popped up, so it was fun for that reason alone.

Standing in line for 2 hours -- sitting in our case -- gave us a lot of catching up time and we sat with our friends Lisa and Douglas from church, who we never get to sit around with and chew the fat (my fault not Lisa's btw). My guy is only one year older than Douglas, but there's some unwritten law that 9 and 10 can be a world of difference and for a while there, there was some "he's too babyish for me" thing going on that parents can never quite fathom or correct. It seemed to have changed for the better last night.

The bookstore people were out and about visiting the line and giving away just enough junk to keep our kids occupied -- brilliant I must say. Bookmarkets, crossword puzzles, little folding fortune teller thing-a-ma-bobs, door handle "Do Not Disturb" witchy signs, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory homework pencils (all the moms grabbed these, since there's nothing like impending homework and no pencil to do it with), and even a little book with sample chapters from a bunch of other cool fantasy genre books for kids who love Harry Potter.

One of the sample chapters in the book was by our dear friend and my writer pal, D.J. MacHale who writes Pendragon and was kind enough to host us in LA last week to dinner and give us signed copies of his books. My son loved bragging about that last night! Thanks, DJ!

Things were getting mobbish and wild close to midnight. We had a quick strategy meeting, decided at 11:45 it made sense to take all our booty and the folding beach chairs and stash them back in the car so we didn't have to lug them into the store. These teenage girls and guys who were making occasional hoots were now chanting, yelling, going a little crazy. Nothing dangerous -- we live in happy suburbs USA -- but annoying to me. I was so tired. I am never awake at 12:00 if I can avoid it and certainly not standing on a city street at midnight having an adolescent girl screaming in my ear.

I love girls, don't get me wrong. But I don't love any teenagers screaming in my ear, before or after midnight. To give the girls credit, all their funny costumes and enthusiasm MADE the evening. It wouldn't have been fun without it. The free tiny drinks on trays from Starbucks and Peets helped too.

At midnight there was much screaming, counting down and serious anti-climax as the bookstore only let a few people in at a time, a cute Asian cop holding the friendly mob in check. At the threshhold, we waiting eagerly holding up our special purple numbered tickets to get the book. Inside, I barely got a minute to say hi to my friend, bought the book and enjoyed some cake in the corner served up by the glamourous "Fleur" -- a character name I think -- and then was offered the chance to knock back a cup of blue punch with gummy worms floating in it. (This last liquid delight I passed on -- it was revolting.)

Why wait in the front of line for two hours, if you can't leave the bookstore with your trophy book and waltz past everyone still waiting, showing off the fact that you have frosting all over your mouth, dixie cup of blue worm punch and the prize literary oeuvre in your arms, wrapped in Waldenbooks swaddling cloth (plastic) like a pretty, healthy newborn baby? Of course, we had to do that. The classic American urge "I own this and you don't!!!"

We were in sorry shape as we got in the car about 12:30 and made our 10 minutes home. My son in the back seat was visible in the rear view mirror for about 2 minutes then sank low, until I spied his desertion and ordered him NOT to fall asleep, he's just to big for me to drag out of the car and into bed on my own. He complied and we talked about something to keep us away, I don't remember what.

At home, he HAD to have me read him the first chapter of the book. Interestingly, it was about a Prime Minister who had just gone through a tough week, with a lot of calamities and catastrophes occuring under his watch and an unpopular war weighing on him heavily. Sounded more like a recounting of Blair's past week in The Times than any Harry Potter book ... much to my surprise. I looked over to see if my son were as keen on the narrative as me. Hardly, unlike me and Tony Blair, he was peacefully in sound slumber, not a care in the world.