On July 16th, I read the last page of the Harry Potter books to London. It had taken me one year, two months, and four days to read that page and the previous 4,099 to her. Before May 12, 2014, I had never made an earnest attempt at even reading the first book. I had made more of an attempt at watching the movies, but had only made it through the first two and started and failed to finish the third movie on several occasions.
By the time I got to page 759 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I felt I was finishing more than a book, but a saga of both literature and life. The obvious saga, that of Harry Potter’s journey from Four Privet Drive to the climactic duel with Lord Voldemort, and the less obvious saga, of London’s journey from her 102nd day in the NICU (the day I started the first book) to her fourteenth month at home, and her seventeenth month of life.
When I cracked open Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone it was an act of therapy. I did not know if I would finish all the books. I did not know if I would be able to read all of them to London. However, as time went by, it became clearer and clearer to me that I would finish the books, that London would hear every page of these books, and that just because we got out of the NICU did not mean the reading of the books ceased to be therapeutic.
In the beginning, it was easy to find time to read Harry Potter to London. I would place her on a pillow in my lap and could read for as long as I like really, assuming she was oxygenating well and in a comfortable position. When she left the NICU, I read several times a day to her, while she was on the floor making cooing noises, while she was falling asleep, and while she was taking a feeding from her NG tube. Later on, I only read to her as she fell asleep for naps. And a little later on from that, she stopped falling asleep if I was by her side reading Harry Potter. This coincided with her ability to pull to a standing position, so she would stand inside her crib and reach out for the pages of the book and get frustrated that she couldn’t grab them.
Eventually, I had to start reading Harry Potter to her when she was in the living room playing with toys. By this last stage, I knew that my voice comforted her. I could read a whole chapter and sometimes two while she played. I may have pushed the limit on July 16, when I read the last sixty pages to her in one sitting as she drained all the fun out of one toy to the next until she was clearly wondering why I had been reading to her for so long without any breaks.
On more than one occasion during the last several days of reading Harry Potter I choked up because it would dawn on me that I am almost done with the books, or I would remember in a flash how far London has come over these 4,100 pages, so incredibly far as you may know.
I take great joy in knowing that I will be able to read these books once again to London when she is older and able to follow the plot. Perhaps I won’t read every word aloud to her. She might take over. That is fine with me. I know I will always be reading with London.
*Special thanks to my wife’s family who let me borrow all of their pristine, hard cover, first edition Harry Potter books.