Harry Potter, the Toothless Fairy, and Little Bear

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We opted, as usual, for homemade costumes, which are more fun and usually look better than the storebought kind. My daughter's toothless fairy costume was a nice dress, a pair of butterfly wings, and a wand that she decorated herself. (Nature took care of the toothless part.) A neighbor sewed my son's Gryffindor house robe, and we added the house patch. We bought his wand, and a cheap pair of sunglasses and wash-out hair dye completed his costume.

About 6:30 last night, I took the two big kids around our block. Of the 40 houses around us, about 10 were open for business. We saw a few other families out as well -- but they seemed to have driven into the neighborhood from somewhere else.

My wife had mentioned a "trunk-or-treat" event at the church down the street. That's where people park their cars in the church parking lot, pop open and decorate their trunks and hand out candy. Seems kind of pointless -- stop at one trunk, get candy, take four steps to the next trunk, get candy, repeat. You lose the anticipation of walking up the steps and ringing the doorbell, wondering who will answer and what kind of treats they'll have. Making the circuit in a parking lot doesn't compare with deciding whether to turn the corner to the next block or head home.

Halloween was a neighborhood event when I was a kid. It was in the neighborhood, and it reinforced a sense of neighborliness. Nowadays we don't shop with, worship with, or go to school with the people we share a subdivision with. Attending Halloween events away from home severs one of the few remaining ties to neighborhood, and reinforces our membership in geographically-scattered communities.

(Take a map and mark the places you visit on a regular basis -- your church, your job, where you shop, where your kids go to school. That's your true neighborhood.)

That said, we next got in the car and headed to First Baptist Church downtown for their fall festival, where we took the above photo. My parents are members there, and we go nearly every year. They have carnival games, a pony ride, face painting, and a bouncy castle. $3 buys a 20-punch pass, and each game or attraction takes one punch -- it's not expensive, but the kids have to think about how they want to spend their punches. Win or lose, you get candy just for playing the games.

Grandma got a balloon for the baby and tied it to his stroller. He had the best time pulling down the string hand over hand to bring the balloon closer.

(I know, I'm a rotten dad: I let my son read Harry Potter, let my kids go trick-or-treating, with my son dressed as Harry Potter, and I let my baby have a dangerous balloon.)

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W. Author Profile Page said:

It's gratifying to see that you let your kid read Harry Potter books. I'm tired of brain-dead zealots who insist that an obvious *fiction* book will lead their children to witchcraft or some other nonsense.

So what costume was the little one wearing? At the least, it appeared to practical, given the cold weather that night.

Dan Paden said:

I didn't let my kids read the Harry Potter books for years; heard too many bad things about them. But when my daughter turned thirteen, she made her case to me--based partly on the testimony of others who'd read them--and I felt like she had enough discernment to read one, report to me, and then make a decision about reading the rest of them.

Her opinion--seconded by my oldest son, who read them right after she did--was that it would be quite impossible to learn to do anything magical from the Potter books, and that they were nothing more than light entertainment.

So did I do wrong in not letting them read them earlier? All I can say is that the house is awash in reading material--mine, Mrs. Paden's, and the two older kids'--and their enthusiasm for literature doesn't seem to have been diminished by having had to wait to read them all in a single summer instead of book-by-book over the last few years. YMMV.

Glad y'all had a good time--even if it wasn't all in the neighborhood.

I read the first Harry Potter book to my son, since I wasn't entirely sure about it, but we read the second together, and he's read the rest on his own. (He's also read the Narnia series at least twice through.)

Someday I may elaborate on this, but Harry's situation in the first book resonated as a metaphor for giftedness. Here's this gawky kid, despised by his "family", with these strange abilities that are viewed as a curse, not a blessing. He finally ends up (after a persistent pursuit) in the place where he belongs, and if this were just a retelling of The Ugly Duckling the story would end there. Now he has to learn how to develop and use his gifts responsibly. And there are all sorts of virtues on display -- courage, loyalty, persistence.

I must admit to feeling a bit cheated to learn that the text had been altered in places for the American edition, right down to the title of the first novel (Philosopher's Stone became Sorcerer's Stone).

W., the baby's costume was a bear outfit, made of lined velour. It wasn't homemade, but I think it came in a box of outgrown clothes from a family at church.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on November 1, 2006 7:52 AM.

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