I picked up Harry Potter and the Cursed Child — Parts One and Two (Special Rehearsal Edition) recently, and finally got around to reading it Tuesday night. According to Amazon it’s 320 pages, and I sort of remember that, but some of that is table of contents and biographies and cast and such.
Because, when it comes down to it, it’s a script you know.
Scripts read somewhat differently than novels, although not a lot. To be honest with you, once I’m a handful of pages into either my mind’s eye takes over and it all sort of flows with words and voices and images of the setting and they feel about the same, except scripts go a teeny bit faster. I read quickly anyway, but normally 320 pages would probably have taken me closer to 5 or 6 hours, and it did not take me nearly that long.
I enjoyed it. I had seen some things on the internet (spoilers) about specific people missing from the book and how that was important/horrible/weird, but in one case specifically they aren’t “missing” they’re just … off-stage. And the characters on-stage react to their existence very much as if they’re part of the world, and in fact, important there. In a play, this is considered normal and is a useful device. In a book, it’s somehow less common (although honestly still happens, but I think people don’t think about it with characters who once had speaking parts and somehow don’t now in this book).
I got to thinking about it though, and I think I’ve been reading scripts since I was either 5 or 6 years old. That I can remember, at least. Mom and Dad had the collected works of Shakespeare in the house, of course, but Daddy had shelves of scripts. I still own some, in fact. I was in an original children’s play as a very small child. And in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof as an older child. And Murder in the Cathedral as a teenager. Not to mention plays for school, like Lilies in the Field and others I can’t currently recall. I didn’t particularly like being up on stage, in front of people, but I liked playing a part. And I really loved helping with set creation and lighting and talking about costuming choices and blocking; so I enjoyed reading scene direction.
All of that meant that I have very clear ideas and opinions about what the characters in The Cursed Child look like. And how some of the story line would force some interesting costume changes. (I’m particularly fond of Hermione and Ron in one bit, I’d love to see that live and interpreted on stage!) I have a feeling for where they’d be on stage, and where they were in the universe of Harry Potter. It felt as fleshed out, in many ways, as the books. Perhaps this worked because I’m already familiar with the universe? I think it must be that, to a large degree.
It does make me miss Mom and Dad more, though. I can’t recall if Daddy liked the Harry Potter universe or not. He didn’t read long form for fun all that often, although it did sometimes happen. But he watched a pretty wide variety of television and movies and they would have been within the realm of things he’d be interested in. Mom I know loved the books and movies well enough that she had a favorite line.
“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”
Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
She’d hand written it, copying out of the book, and kept it on her desk from having fallen in love with it until she died. And I think she’d have been very interested in this installment. Plus, I could have talked to them about the mechanics of reading the different formats and how that feels in your own head, which would have been really good. Most of the time, when I miss my parents, it has less to do with wanting them to fix a thing, or know about an event, and more to do with wanting to talk with them about small daily things and things that made me think of them, and of course, to get hugs and just see them with my eyes again.
I think Rowling understands those feelings so much. And in the end, she explores it quite well in this book. I’ve already lent my copy out to a co-worker, who expressed an interest after she discovered I’d read it the night before. I really hope she enjoys it.
Cryptic dream in which dad called but couldn’t talk long. Wanted to talk to me and A. Gave password to reach him on old muck room online. Said mom had got him from airport and all the animals were rambunctious and happy because he/they was/were home. A and I kept getting trapped by library patrons on wild goose chase. Very frustrated upon waking. Headache. Fed cats took Advil trying for sleep again.
These sorts of dreams happen a lot lately. Recording because almost coherent. Miss them.
Sometimes, I catch myself in an inherited emotional conflict. The biggest one is the Lack of Contact with Specific Relatives conflict.
My parents both came from moderate to largish sized families, depending on who you ask. I mean, my dad’s dad had something like 13 kids in the family. Dad’s immediate family consisted of 4 boys, 2 adopted girls, and a small quantity of foster kids (of which I only ever met one). Mom’s family was split between extremely tiny (her mom was an only child with many maiden aunts) and average to large for the time (I think there were 4 kids on my grandfather’s family, but he somehow got “disowned”, although even that is up for debate). Mom’s own immediate family consisted of 4 girls.
My immediate family consists of 4 girls (and a half-sister we knew existed but who had been withdrawn by her mother so we weren’t allowed to meet her until I was well into my 20s and she in her 30s).
We did the usual kid things. We’d write grandparents cards for birthdays, and thank you cards for gifts/money we might get at holidays or our birthdays, but rarely saw them. I have specific memories of certain relatives, and gaping memory-holes of others. (I apparently drove across several states with my youngest aunt on my mom’s side and thoroughly grossed her out by shoving half-eaten carrots in my mom’s mouth. I was definitely either a baby or a toddler. I have no memory of this or being a dress-up baby for my adopted aunts that are barely a decade older than me. I have previously mentioned how I met my grandfather at about age 3 and remember it very specifically.)
We didn’t live near any of our relatives. They all lived at least 2 or more states away, and we lived in Texas (albeit the top northeast corner of Texas, only a couple of hours from 3 neighboring states). And most of our relatives didn’t drive through Texas really, although some would occasionally fly through. In any case, sometimes, mom and dad would make an effort and we’d go see his side of the family, usually in Ohio or Kentucky. For a time, Kentucky was easier. It was infinitesimally closer, and my grandmother and grandfather both lived there. Even after they divorced, they were near enough to each other. I remember one Christmas trip where probably, the road conditions were very scary. We pulled over at a truck stop (one of the sorts with all-night diners that have amazing smelling coffee and pie) so that daddy could chat up the truck drivers for news on the roads. Another trip, when I was older (probably in high school), we went to Ohio. That was a very big reunion, but mostly I remember it as an excuse to celebrate my grandmother’s birthday – July 5th.
The bit where it’s an inherited emotional conflict is – that side of the family didn’t reciprocate visits, really. One of the uncles would. He adored my dad and genuinely loved my mom, and if he was traveling through Texas for any reason, he’d manage to stop for at least one or two nights and visit. Dad’s family didn’t write, in general, and they rarely called. It hurt mom a lot. When I’m being logical about it, and remember that in reality, I’m not sure I care as it doesn’t affect me on a daily basis, I suspect they just assumed we knew that we were invited. We’re family. Of course we must know that there are reunions, and we should come!
Mom’s position was that we couldn’t always afford to travel. And that dad was often working. And that it would be nice if, on occasion, they came to see us. Especially if they were in state. Once, they found out later than an uncle and his family had been just an hour or two away, and hadn’t told us until long after the fact. Dad was terribly hurt, and for mom it was the last straw – she said. Mostly, it just made her angry and bitter and judgmental of their choices.
The odd thing is, she didn’t really get that way about her own sisters. Perhaps it was because one pretty much stayed in her home state with their kids. And another was often too busy working to keep her kids fed/clothed. And the third, well, the third DID visit, when she drove through occasionally. We had a family reunion with them too, which mom enjoyed (and surprised herself doing so, because it was camping of a sort, and mom hated the outdoors).
I don’t really know why it affected her so much. The few times I tried to gently ask she would just get so upset about how much they hurt my dad with their choices that I’d often drop the subject. But I catch myself being angry with them on her behalf, when I see them post things that I know would bother her. Most times, I can shake my head and sort of shiver off the feelings. But sometimes I’m so tired, and I wish the people could see how casual thoughtless things said can hurt and exclude. It’s hard not to accept the baggage as my own, in those moments.
10 years ago Tuesday, December 16th, my father died. He’d been in hospice for a week or two, after being admitted to the hospital emergency with complications from lung cancer. As cancer does, it was much more complicated than that sounds.
My parents knew he wasn’t doing well. They’d actually called us earlier in the fall to let us know they were taking him off the treatment trials he’d been participating in, because the quality of life was extremely degraded for the quantity that was being hoped for – not even promised. He’d been fighting cancer for about 2 years, as I remember it, by that point.
We had all made various plans to go back and spend time with the family, he just happened to collapse when I was there, so we bumped up getting my other out of state sister home and my in state sisters were able to spend time with him as well. As deaths in the family go, it was … actually not horrible. He was very at peace with things, although sad that he was going to miss future events and just being present. He wasn’t giving up, and so I sort of hate the “fight cancer! don’t give up!” rhetoric because I don’t believe a patient really ever STOPS fighting so much as they accept that they have done all they can at that point and willingly (or less so) makes the next step. But it’s tiring to argue the rhetoric, because often it’s not about the patient at that point. The never-give-up rhetoric is more about the healthy, non-cancer relatives of the patient. Or survivors. And I suspect, a little bit, our culture in general as Americans. (Note to self, ask your out of country friends how THEY talk about cancer.)
Anyway, as of the 16th, I’ve been without my dad for 10 years. I loved my dad, a lot. I had a good relationship with him. When I disappointed him, and I did several times, I knew he still loved me and I knew that he forgave me and wasn’t going to hold it over my head maliciously. If I seemed inclined to err again, he might gently remind me that the last time I did it hadn’t turned out so well, but he wasn’t mean.
He wasn’t a saint. He cursed. He would yell extremely loudly and with foul language when he lost his temper. It would flare out very quickly and he would be extremely remorseful, unless he felt it was justified, and then he would apologize for his horrid behavior and ask more politely for the problem to be rectified.
But he was a good man. And I was very lucky. Of my close friends, the ones I have had extended relationships with, I can only think of 2 who are similar to me. Who loved their fathers, knew they were loved, realized their dads were humans who made mistakes, but did not have some sort of complicated relationship with them. It was something I hadn’t realized before, until I started thinking about my friends and their fathers.
Sometimes it’s as simple as political differences. Those are hard, but not insurmountable. My first father-in-law and I were diametrically opposite for a number of political issues, but he loved debating (not arguing) and therefore we both could learn interesting things and think harder about the issues.
Sometimes it’s worse. A societal difference. A father who believes that what you are doing is worthless – you are worthless, because of your chosen career being less-than in terms of earning potential or because of who you love or what gender you are.
Sometimes it’s a father who has a violent presenting illness. Alcoholism gone so wrong that the person is a literal Jekyll and Hyde. You don’t know which you will meet.
I feel so lucky to have had what I had. My own mother didn’t. Sometimes she felt sorry for herself, sometimes she felt angry. I didn’t feel much of anything, aside from pity for the man himself. It’s my “first” clear memory that I know is mine and not photography or story based. I remember meeting her father, my grandfather. I was about 3, and didn’t realize really who he was. He was a man that my mother didn’t trust, but that we were visiting because it was the right thing to do. He was horribly sad and broken. He knew he couldn’t fix what he’d done wrong. I felt bad for him a bit, but mostly I pitied him. When I told her later, in an offhand way, that I did remember grandpa, sort of, it was after she’d said, “You met him once, because your dad thought it was the right thing to do, but it was very brief at a hotel.” and I connected the dots. She was shocked, and sad, but mostly shocked that a 3 year old could remember such vivid emotions from such a brief meeting.
I wonder now, much later, whether it’s because my father was so very much not like that. I had complete and utter certainty in him. This strange old man who was broken was not capable of that, and I think he knew it, deep inside. I think, the reason I felt sorry for him was because he didn’t expect it and even seemed completely defeated and deflated about any option of recovering any sort of good. He seemed to know that one brief meeting was all he was going to get.
I am so thankful to have had my dad. When I think of dads, I admit he’s very similar to what I hope most people have, even though as an adult I know that people don’t. I hope most men who are going to be fathers aspire to be someone that in the end, even with their flaws, their kids would love and respect and be proud of.