Last night, the kids and I completed the Jim Dale reading of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Something about that accomplishment makes me want to cry. It's the end, for the first time. The secrets have been revealed. The mystery is solved. The Horcruxes have been vanquished.
As we were listening to the last disc, I would get excited and shush the kids...hold out my arms for the stillness to fall, and then the words would pour over them. With each secret that was revealed with each explanation that came, their eyes widened. Then we would discuss, summarize and continue. There was so much to absorb, so much to feel, so much to connect.
As I watched the kids experience the ending of the Harry Potter series for the first time, I could not have been more grateful that we had the the 7th book on CD so that we could experience it together. I would have been satisfied with just Carrick reading it, but going through it as a family added a power to the story that I had yet to experience. In all the times I have read the books or listened to the book on CD (multiple times on both accounts) I had not shared it with anyone else simultaneously. (Well, sort of. I would listen to it in the car when I would take Carrick on "nap rides" when he was little. It's not quite the same as sharing it with an 11-year-old.) I loved being right there with my kids as they were taken through the forest, into Harry's mind and back into Hogwarts, knowing that the end was drawing ever closer.
This was a journey I began eleven years ago. It has been a long time in the making. When I read the Sorcerer's Stone to Carrick while he was in the NICU, it was like wrapping up in a warm blanket. Reading the familiar story to my first baby as he recovered from his two-month premature birth laid the foundation for this trip. A year later, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter was opened. It was then that I made the promise to myself that his 11th birthday would include a trip there.
After saving up for the trip all year long, (and saving up paid time off) I am finally able to make this decade-long dream a reality. I never knew it would come so quickly! That is part of why the completion of this book holds so much power over me. I have anticipated this for a very long time.
Now, our road trip and vacation are just around the corner. It seems unbelievable.
Part of my preparations are already started. The hotel room for the trip down is booked. The car rental is booked. Some car snacks are purchased, although I will be adding to that this weekend. I want to take the kids shopping for some treats to add to what I already have. My aim is to not buy anything from a gas station and save some cash that way. (ALDI is much cheaper than Circle K for snacks and bottled water.)
I am also taking the kids shopping for "car presents". I will be buying useful and/or fun things for the kids to have on the trip and wrapping them up as presents. Such items will include fanny packs, mini bubbles, sunglasses, puzzle books, goggles, and glow sticks. I figured they would enjoy opening presents on the trip. I used to do this for my kids when they were much younger and we took road trips. This is our first long road trip in three years, so I wanted to go back to that old tradition. (Also that way I know they have certain items for the trip that they might not otherwise have or remember.)
As a side note, the bubbles will be handed out if we are stuck in traffic. Once upon a time when on one of our Family Florida Road Trips with my own parents, we were stuck in Traffic in Atlanta. All four lanes of traffic were at a stand still. So I got out of the car and started blowing bubbles into the car windows of the people around us. It put a smile on everyone's face in a stressful and annoying situation and is one of my favorite memories of the trip south. Don't worry, I won't let the kids out of the car, but if we are stuck in traffic, you better believe our car will be the one with bubbles flying out the windows.
That memory calls to mind the part of this trip that seems surreal to me; I am now on the "adult" side of a Family Road Trip to Florida. Since I was two years old, my parents would drive down to Florida every other year for our big family vacation. Traveling south through Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and into Florida is in my blood. It's what I know as a family vacation. I am now the one providing that to my children. Taking them on a memorable journey that will stay with them for a lifetime.