I was beginning to worry that my 12-year-old daughter might have outgrown Harry Potter — or at least the excitement of Harry.
When “The Order of the Phoenix” came out two years ago, Miana insisted we pre-order three months in advance. She begged my wife, Linda, to sew her a black Hogwarts robe, and we spent hours whittling her a wand — with a whisker from our cat, Bear, as its “magical core.” We spent three hours at Borders playing games, doing face-painting and waiting in line to be one of the first with a book.
But as Saturday’s midnight release of “The Half-Blood Prince” approached, Miana, now a rising seventh grader, wasn’t even sure she wanted to deal with all that. Two years and 26 days was a long time to be away from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, so we’d had to find other ways to feed our fantasy.
Miana started with Eoin Colfer’s “Artemis Fowl” series, with its fairies, goblins and pixies. Then we introduced her to J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy — an epic tale of good and bad wizards, of dragons and trolls and goblins and elves, and of a resurgent “dark lord.”
It was the perfect parallel to Potter, and Miana ate it up. For months, she could talk of nothing but enchanted rings, magic swords and elvish runes, and she seemed to have little time for Harry and his friends.
Her Hogwarts robe sat balled up in a corner of her closet, wrinkled and forgotten.
Then, about three weeks ago, she asked if I could call Borders and see what they had planned for this year. When I told her the clerk had promised “crazy, crazy fun,” she asked if we could sign up.
Miana began marking the passage of time in weeks or days “TH” — ’til Harry. On Thursday, Miana called me at work to finalize our plans, which by now included her two best friends, Katie and Amanda.
“I hope I can sleep tonight,” she said. “Maybe I should take a Benadryl.”
She did. But, in our defense, she DID have a stuffy nose.
Friday morning, I jumped in the car and drove to Borders to be there when they opened at 9 o’clock and get a low number for the line to pick up our book at midnight. When I returned home, Miana and Linda were waiting at the door.
“What number did we get?” Miana asked.
“They said we’d have to come back later,” I said. “But I have a couple of surprises to tide you over.”
I made a big show of pulling out a box of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor beans (with new flavors rotten egg and bacon), a chocolate frog complete with wizard trading card and ... a purple ticket with the number “0001.”
Miana danced around the kitchen chanting, “We’re No. 1! We’re No. 1!”
She and her friends exchanged phone calls throughout the day to confer on wardrobes and hairstyles. Katie, with her beautiful red hair and a black graduation robe from Goodwill, would be Ginny Weasley. Amanda, with a purple robe and her hair dyed raven-black, would be Harry’s crush, Cho Chang.
Linda had spent the evening before braiding Miana’s hair to achieve that Hermione Granger frizziness.
“I’m hyper, I’m hyper,” Miana said, bouncing up and down. “Today can’t go by fast enough!”
But when we got to the store around 9:30 p.m., the girls were already wondering whether they’d made a mistake dressing up. So few seemed to be in costume this year.
As the minutes ticked by toward midnight, the three sat in a corner of the bookstore, eating oversized chocolate chip cookies and thumbing through a stack of J-14 and Tiger Beat magazines for the latest gossip on Orlando Bloom and Lindsay Lohan. Their minds seemed to be on anything but a boy with a lightning scar on his forehead.
“Am I having fun yet?” Miana asked with that look of ennui that only a tween can muster. “Because if I am, my face hasn’t caught up with my brain.”
Maybe we just should’ve gone to Wal-Mart at midnight and dispensed with all the hoopla. Twelve suddenly seemed much too old for face-painting and hat-making.
Then the store manager announced it was time to line up.
“Well,” Miana said, giving me a shove. “Get in line, buddy.” Soon she had grabbed my cell phone and was counting down the minutes.
At 11:55, Linda turned to me with a sad expression on her face.
“I’m already dreading the day when we finish the book,” she said. “Because then it will be over again.”
“Are you going to cry?” Miana asked with a look that said, “You’d better not.”
When the manager announced at 11:58 that the books were being brought up to the registers, Miana was up on her tiptoes dancing a jig.
“It’s 12 o’clock, it’s 12 o’clock, it’s 12 o’clock,” she said, handing me back the phone. “Get your ticket.”
A couple of minutes later, Miana was leaving the store, the new book clutched tightly to her chest. As we drove home under a brilliant yellow half moon, we listened to the book on compact disc.
The three girls who just a few hours earlier couldn’t have cared less about witches and warlocks sat transfixed in the back seat, not uttering a word.