Dear J. K. Rowling

August 2017

Dear J. K. Rowling,

Several years ago you gave me a gift that I didn’t properly thank you for… and now you’ve extended your kindness to my son.

Thank you for Harry and all his adventures. My husband, Robby, and I read through all of your wonderful books as they came out (starting a few days after our friends because I’d picked up the first book on a trip to Canada and insisted that we must finish out the series with the same cover theme… so there were agonizing waits for our hardcovers to find their way to us from across the Atlantic). Mostly we read your books in the car on long trips—though we’d bring them into the living room and keep reading during especially thrilling bits.

I got pretty good at coming up with voices for all your characters—Luna Lovegood and Professor Trewlaney and Mad Eye Moody were particular favorites. I used to read the books through quickly first, on my own, before reading them out loud to Robby. This practice ended after HP & the Order of the Phoenix. When we are finally assured that Lupin is, in fact, on the side of good I paused to look at my husband. He said, “I already knew we could trust him.” “How?? When did you figure it out?,” I spluttered. “The voice you gave him—I knew he was okay.” I was horrified that my own love of Remus had ruined a bit of suspension for Robby so after HP&tOoP I didn’t read past where I’d read aloud to him.

In 2004, Robby and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary and were very much blessed with the arrival of our long awaited son, Jack. He was three when we finished the last book in the original canon and we shelved the books waiting for the day when he’d be old enough for us to relive the adventures with him. (To tide us over we have a niece, Maddie, who loved the books as much as I did. Thank heavens!)

Now Jack is an amazing boy. He’s smart and funny and full of questions. And he reads—constantly. We’d known loss—so we only prayed that “the baby” (we didn’t know his gender—though I suspected) be delivered safely and in good health… I’d secretly add “and please, please let baby love books, too.” Our Jack is an actual-factual monkey—and rarely has time for fiction. No matter. I’d told him from the time he was quite young that Harry Potter was quite real and that, if we paid attention, there was, indeed, magic all around us. And I refused to let him see a single Harry Potter movie until he’d read the corresponding book first.

Two years ago he rather reluctantly opened Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. This last week he went on a 14 chapter binge (a first for him!) to the end of HP & the Deathly Hallows.

What a wonderful two years it has been. Thank you! Thank you for letting us revisit our dear friends again and to introduce them to our boy. Jack, at nearly-13 (next month!), still brandishes his wand (Aunt Trish gave him it on the eve of his 11th birthday when we threw him a “Hogwarts’ letter eve” party) and dreams of playing Quidditch. He’s shyly pleased that Ron and Hermione married each other and didn’t see Ginny coming any more than Harry did. Jack and I are pleased to be in Hufflepuff (we imagine being near the kitchens at Hogwarts must be lovely) and wonder about the differences between North American wizards and those that we know like the back of our hands. We rate the books in order of our favorites. And bemoan the things that the movies left out. We are still mourning the losses, still especially fresh for Jack, of so many dear ones in HP & the Deathly Hallows. (We are, at heart, Weasleys. So that particular death was brutal.)

And we dream of Hogwarts feasts, Weasley sweaters, and using a Marauder’s Map to get up to no good…

Thank you.

Thank you.

Always, thank you.

With much, much love,

Jack’s Mom

 

P.S. The other day was the first day of school (8th grade) for Jack (and the day after he’d finished HP & the Deathly Hallows) and we had to pick up some groceries. The store had paperback copies of HP & the Cursed Child. Jack asked, “Mom?” Now—I have read it—devouring a friend’s copy while we were camping last year—and didn’t yet have our own on the shelf. I was reluctant to get a paperback but was so swayed by Jack’s excitement to read it that I said, “Okay” and popped it in the cart.

When we got home Jack said, “Mom. I can’t read it yet—I need to see the Deathly Hallows movies first.”

Curious to remember how it began again I opened it to read it again myself—only to discover that the pages are all out of order (!) and it’s missing the first 18 pages!!!!

Jack and I agree that it must be dark magic, indeed.

Or a muggle at the helm.

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March 21, 2017

Dear Jack,

My goodness. This is our last half-birthday with a little kid. In six months you’ll be a teenager.
And it still feels like we just brought you home to the little black pup and a house that didn’t yet have books about dinosaurs, space, and facts…
This has been a winter of growing. You’re still not as tall as you’d like– but we’ve seen you grow in other ways. You’re learning how to navigate a bit more without us piloting every decision or destination. And that means you are learning to trust yourself– just as we are learning to let you go out into the world by bits and pieces without us.
LOTS of conversations lately about friends and frenemies and compassion and kindness and honesty and integrity.
For every victory — and there have been quite a few— there’s been a stumble. (The Great Dead Cell Phone Incident of March 2017 comes to mind…)

And now we’re coming up on your confirmation at church. We’ve always loved your commitment to God and to learning about him– but it’s been really lovely for Dad and I to see hunger continue as you grow older and are able to apply experience to what you know in your head. Seeing it play out with your heart has been so good for our understanding of love and faith and covenants, too. I’m excited to see what these next weeks bring you as you meet with your church mentor.
Kiddo– we couldn’t love you more– we’re about bursting with it as is– but thank you for surprising us constantly with some new discovery or challenging what we thought we knew with one of your questions.
I am so, so grateful, every day, that I get to be your Mom. It’s still unbelievably extraordinarily wonderful to call you my son.
I love you,
Mom

Saturday, January 21 2017

Dear Jack,

On Saturday, January 21, 2017, millions of people (mostly women but also a lot of men and children) marched for women’s human rights all over the world– in big cities and little cities. I didn’t march on Saturday. And I regret it.

I could have gone. Your Dad would have gone with me if I had asked. You would have gone with me if I had explained it. But I didn’t ask or explain.

And I’m ashamed of that. I’m ashamed that I had a choice about it– that it was entirely up to whether I wanted to go and I didn’t.

I was afraid, kiddo. Big crowds terrify your mother. I can do orderly crowds– at Disney we stand in neat lines. At the airport we are surrounded by protocol. I get nervous at a high school football game– I eye the exits and plan out escape scenarios in my head. In a movie theater I pretend that it is just a dozen of us in the dark together. But big open spaces filled with people and rallies and protests and marches? They freak your mom out.

In hindsight the crowds on Saturday were kind– there were only 4 arrests that I’ve read about (and even those weren’t disruptive). Women (and men) reached across all the different lines between us– race and economic class and education and age and orientation– and shared protein bars and knitted pink hats and stories.

They did what your mom didn’t do that day– they stood up for themselves and– more importantly– for each other.

You know I don’t have any respect for the new president. (The fact that Dad and I refer to him as Cheeto McRacistpants is probably a tip off.) I know that you don’t either. I hate some of the conversations that we have had to have about the things that you have heard or learned or didn’t understand. But I love your heart. I love that you know that this isn’t about a political party but an ideology that Dad and I find abhorrent. Our hope is that by the time you can vote (two presidental elections from now) you’ll have choices among a variety of qualified, educated candidates. (Maybe even the kind of people that read and value education… and morality.)

So my feet (and your Dad’s feet) weren’t on the pavement on Saturday. We didn’t don pink pussy hats or brandish a placard (and believe me– mine would have been very neatly penned). You might not remember that for us it was an extraordinarily quiet Saturday that we spent at home reading and eating tacos and playing with the funny little pups. You and Dad had dug out his old NES game system and delighted in playing Super Mario World together while I finished two books, started a third, and then took a break to work on a Disney castle puzzle.

Our hands, Jack Rabbit, will be part of what’s next. Because the marches were just the beginning. Now, ahead of us is the period where we learn how to rebel. This will be a hard lesson for your vanilla, follow-the-rules parents. This weekend I started by making a few calls to DC offices to add my name to the lists opposing Betsy DeVos  as well as the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. I’ll pay attention. I’ll stay alert.

This president in office has made clear in just the first 80 some hours that he will lie and that he will castigate the media for not reporting his lies. “Alternative facts” are falsehoods. Lies. Made up things. He will distort.

It will be important to practice truthfulness. Honesty. Integrity. It will be important for us, as Christians, to truly be Christ followers and show mercy and act justly. We will read, and ask questions, and know that even while, of course, our faith isn’t in any government but in God– the reality is that our lives– and our neighbors’ lives are very much effected by decisions that these elected people (even when we very much did not elect them) make on our behalf.

I might never work up the courage to march with a million other people– but I hope that in these next few years I’ll be doing the work that they started.

Love,

Mom

 

 

 

 


September 21, 2016

Dear “Boltz”–

Good grief. You turned 12 today. How is that even a possibility?? You are easing us into the impending teenagehood (one last golden year of a “kid”!) with your pre-teen angst and tweener ‘tude.

I’m glad that you are still surprisingly sweet and gentle at times. And that those times far outweigh the bursts of pent up emotion.

We’ve had a good year– a tough year– but a good year where we’ve slogged through the first year of middle school. You navigated this first ripple of friends sometimes acting in not-so friendly ways with determination that you would not be unkind. It hasn’t always been easy. Middle school is full of heartbreak and curses and mean girls (and boys that are… well, I’ll curb my tongue.). You’ve reminded your Dad and I what years away from that viper pit have dulled– middle school is really kind of awful. We grieved for you while you found your footing in all the changes– new teachers, new friends, new bullies, new tasks (lockers! gym clothes! a g.p.a!) and cheered when you came out on the other end with a mostly optimistic outlook and your faith intact.

You’re still growing and learning in your faith– we love to see how important God is and seeking to understand what his will is for you. Your Dad is, by his own admission, “trying to keep up with Jack” in his own relationship with God and church and Biblical literacy. As for me– well, I have loved finally having you as full fledged “Yout” at the church. Sunday nights are so much better for having you in the mix of games and our prayer circle. Your prayer at youth group last week about brought me to my knees when you earnestly thanked God for bringing us all back together again and “for the older ones teaching the younger ones”.

One of your best adventures this year was going on mission trip with the youth group. Dad and I were so proud of you and how hard you worked (and how hard you played). You were the youngest and the smallest– and our favorite MT day was when you were able to complete the screws inside the raised garden bed– because you were small enough to fit inside. God uses all of us– where we are. How we are. It’s good that you are starting to understand that already.

It was a year of small adventures. We welcomed in the New Year at Lake Louise in the tiny district superintendent cabin — a perfect start to 2016 with just the three of us and a stack of movies and fresh falling snow. You skied with us and with the youth group; went sledding with cousin Tyler; went to Chicago and your beloved Field Museum; spent a week tramping around Lake Wedowee with the Georgia Cousins; spent a night at Wesley Woods; a week at the cottage with the Far-Flungs (where you were leader of the Kid Pack– Adrian, Chris, Emily, and baby Grace); and a perfect week at Family Camp.

You read the second and third Harry Potter books– and finally saw those movies. (And, like your mom and cousin Maddie, was pretty ticked that they cut out so much of our favorite parts.) You moved up (twice!) in band– from Intermediate to Varsity in the late fall and from Varsity to Symphonic in the early school year. You marched in your first parades (loving it), played in your first concerts, went to your first District Festival (IIIs…), and on your first Elementary Schools Tour. When Mr. K asked you to jump into jazz band and learn the trombone you did– even though it meant waking up an hour earlier every morning to get to school by 6:30 a.m. And we’re loving that you’ll march at your first football game this Friday playing your song– September!

Sometimes this year you were fragile– unsure of your own worth or potential. Sometimes this year you were giggly. Sometimes you were cocky and rude. Sometimes you fell into our arms asleep. You are so very much a little kid and a big kid and a nearly-teenager all rolled into one. You’re experimenting with copying the 8th graders and their habits of wearing their earbuds slung over a shoulder– even while you are still making elaborate scenes with your army guys, legos, or stuffed toys.

The hardest part of this year? Saying goodbye to your little black dog. Poor Philbin made it to the week before your birthday. When I asked you where we should bury him– perhaps by the hostas he loved so much? You thought about it and answered, “We might not always live in this house forever– but we will always have the cottage. Let’s bury him there.” So we will. With a banana salute in the spring. Your concern for Hildy and your teary-eyed Mom is one of your best traits.

As is the kind of 7th grader (!) you are– the kind that doesn’t weld his new found power but seeks to help out the 6th graders when he can. Not everyone remembers the slats below on the ladder— we’re glad to see that you do.

While I type this you’ve put the finishing touches on an english paper and read through your algebra homework with your Dad. You’re anxious to have time to play on your new Nintendo 3DS and we are anxious to give you time to relax after a long day.

We love you, kiddo. We’re so proud of being your parents. But slow down this year– okay? This is all going by too fast.

XOXO– Diploticus

Mom

 

 


Sleep well, sweet black prince

The little black pup left us today. We had him put to sleep after a steady decline this summer that accelerated in the last week or two. 

He really was a good little friend. The best really. There will be other little fur babies– but none that knew us as we were before we were parents. Those little shoebutton eyes knew what Jack and Hildegard don’t– that we are making this all up as we go along. 

We are sad. And grateful for a kind veterinarian. 

And yes– we do believe that dogs go to heaven. If St. John saw dragons and horses we are quite confident that there are also little black pups. 


Happy Campers


We are back from another week in the sand and dirt and woods of west Michigan. Our ankles are covered in mosquito bites, our shoulders are slightly pink still from too much sun, and we are, for a brief time, sated with s’mores and hobo pies.
And our tanks are full again– we’ve spent a week in worship and study and play with our extended church family so we are, again, buoyed and hopeful.
It was a very good week. We’ve always camped in the same area– within two tents of Tent 13.5 — and this year we packed up and moved East across the camp to the mid 30s. Our new spot was near good friends and we reveled in late night card games, chats around the communal fire, and big “family dinners” that everyone contributed to. Our rhythms changed with the new location– the family dinners were slower, more boisterous. We were not labored with tending to just our own needs– fire, food, shelter– and so had more time to just Be.
It is good to head into this new school year with the confidence of who we are and to whom we belong– Jack needed that but so did we. It’s the best thing about family camp– all the generations tumbling upon each other so that there are always extra hands to hold the little people and extra advice for those in the pre-teen trenches. And so much love. Love for even the middle-agers who are tired and worn down from work and routine.
There is balm in the sunsets. There is rest in pulling our chairs out into the shadow waters and letting Lake Michigan lap over us while we read and talk and soak up the sun. There is joy in the singing at Firebowl. Convivial warmth in the shared meals and trivia games and walks along the trails. There are old friends and new friends and reconnections.
And there is dirt, and grime, and uncleaned bathrooms, mice in the walk-in coolers, chipmunks in the tents, and worn out children in need of a nap. There is patience required in the long walk to the ice-cooler or the wiping down of sandy tables and the shaking out of sleeping bags.
What a gift it all is.
If you aren’t a camper it’s horrifying– the filth and the faint whiff of mildew in a platform tent that is an open invitation to the little wood creatures and Daddy Long Legs. If you are an extreme introvert it’s a nightmare of having to talk to people everywhere– the classes and showers and beach…
But if you ARE a camper– all that lovely green around you is a wonderful thing. To hear birds and the skittering of tiny, furried feet is music. To be surrounded by people who reflect back 1 John 4:7-8 in their laughter and kindness and offers to toast a marshmallow for you… And what a pure and holy thing it is to be out of cell phone range– to see that “No Service” pop up on your iPhone and know that you are not for this world. Ah– that is a sacred offering in itself.

We store it up as best we can– we pack it up as surely as we pack up the tarps and bungee cords and camp dishes. Throughout the long year ahead we’ll find remnants, even in this thicker place, — a piece of a song or the whiff of wood smoke. And those remnants will stir the memory of who we are, what we are called to be, and how much we are loved.

Or at least that’s the hope.


631,138,519 seconds. (But who’s counting?)

Today marks 20 years of missing Dad. I have great faith in believing that there isn’t need to keep my Dad updated on all that’s happened since. On most days it’s because I believe that he knows. On other days because it couldn’t matter.

How could I possibly update him now?

This is what 20 years looks like:

My nieces turning from red-shoed little toddlers to lovely, graceful women. Pre-school, grade school, middle school, high school, and college. Dozens and dozens of dance recitals and school programs. Baptisms. Bicycle riding and first boyfriends.  Disney trips. Exchanges with little French girls and weeks spent with French families. Plays. Football games. Accolades. College visits. Open houses. Graduation ceremonies. Maddie’s wedding. Jack. Eric. Deaths. Marriages. Divorces. Travel.

These things I do know: There are at least 2000 movies that I would have seen with him. He’d have watched Parenthood for Craig T. Nelson alone. My youth group would love him. Our email would be clogged with forwarded bits of humor. Jack would have regular cheeseburger nights.

Today isn’t any different from yesterday or tomorrow in missing Dad in the ordinary, day-to-day part of living. It’s just the number that makes me take stock. On most days the grief and the loss is dull and manageable. Other days it is acute and demanding. Today it was assuaged in spending the morning with a pot of sausage gravy and my beautiful nieces, their men, my sister, Momma, and Eric (who hates sausage gravy but loves us). Jack’s half day of school was punctuated with an earlier than usual walk to Wendy’s and an afternoon of Wii and cupcakes. Robby took us to church where we rearranged the furniture in the chapel for a lovely, quiet tenebrae service. We ended the night with hibachi Japanese, cupcake deliveries, and lighting a candle at the cemetery.

This has been a horrid week with too much loss. And, for a lot of reasons, a week of dread. Tomorrow we breathe again. And eat cupcakes.