Many of you know my story with Quady. You know that we both share a passion to help children and that it has lead us to open Pinwheel Place. You also know that is something that we are doing together. If you know us, you also know that we share a love of Harry Potter, hence why our first tricky tray had that theme. Harry Potter came into our lives by accident. An elderly woman, Evelyn, and I met at the Ronald McDonald House. She was the Friday night volunteer and was always there when I came to work on the weekends, which at that time was quite often. As Evelyn started to have some memory issues I would just come earlier and spend time with her which allowed her to still volunteer which is something that she loved. One Christmas she asked me what Quady would like as a present and as Quady at the time was into Goosebumps I suggested that maybe she could get her one of the Goosebumps books. Evelyn loved that idea as she loved books (her daughter was the librarian at Ranney School long before I had ever even heard of Ranney). When she went to the book store she couldn’t remember what I had said Quady would like and asked the book store for a suggestion. When Quady opened Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone of course she was gracious but as neither of us liked science fiction books we put it on a shelf. One day we were bored and decided to pull it out and read it not knowing what to expect. From then on we were hooked. This of course was the perfect time to be a Harry Potter fan. We would wait anxiously between books (sometimes years) and would show up for those midnight book parties at the Borders in Eatontown, though we never did dress up. We would get home and I would read to her until the wee hours of the morning, sleep and wake up again to read until we were finished. Even though Quady could read the later books by herself I would still read to her as we both couldn’t wait to know what Harry, Ron and Hermione were up to. I remember when Dobby died reading through the tears and as the books got larger I almost had no voice by the end of the weekends. We always went the first days the movies came out and of course went to Universal Studios in Florida and got Quady a wand at Olivander's. To top it all off when Quady graduated college we took the Harry Potter tour of England with the studio tour included. It was a dream come true. As the last book had ended with Harry all grown up it seemed fitting that would be her graduation gift. We were kind of disappointed that something we loved seemed to be coming to an end. We were so happy to find out we were wrong and when it was announced Harry Potter was coming to Broadway you know it was something we had to share together.
Last week for Quady’s birthday we headed into Manhattan to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and I will tell you it was magical. I can’t go into too much more for as we left the theater we were sworn into secrecy and I have the pin to prove it. Why am I going on about Harry Potter on Pinwheel Place’s website you might ask, because as I looked through the playbill a certain article caught my eye “ Harry Potter, the Boy Protected by His Mother’s Love”. JK Rowling’s first book will always be one of my favorites because at the end of the book we find out that Harry lived because his mother’s love had saved him. Reading that at the time as a mom who loved my little girl so much and after what we had been through, that theme resonated with me, so of course when I saw that title I had to read on. The article was written by a consultant psychiatrist, Dr. Shirley Gracias, and the subtitle was how early childhood experiences can shape the adults we become. ACES!!!! She used Harry Potter to talk about childhood trauma and resilience. Brilliant, as Hermione would have said!
In the article Dr. Gracias explains that Harry’s story is full of loss and trauma. Harry and Voldermort, the Dark Lord, both experienced significant loss early in life but how later in life they deal with it is very different. Harry becomes the hero of the novels, the light, and Voldermort is the enemy, the darkness. Why such different outcomes? Well it goes back to the mother’s love. Harry in his first year of life was well cared for and loved. His needs were met. His mother died and her love is what saved him. Voldermort on the other hand had no parents in his life. He grew up feeling unloved and unwanted. This highlights for us the importance of the early years on a child’s development, not only brain development but also social development. Dr. Gracias talks about how when a baby receives consistent and sensitive responses from a caregiver along with emotional warmth the baby sees the world as a positive place where it is safe to develop. If the caregiver can only provide responses in a limited way and sometimes can be someone to fear the world of a baby becomes unpredictable and frightening. The babies can adapt their emotional strategies to survive which can lead to extreme behaviors when they get older. Case in point, Voldermort who turns evil.
Harry and Voldermort’s childhoods were more similar. Harry was treated horribly by his caregivers the Dursley’s and Voldermort grew up in a cruel orphanage. Again, though, because Harry as a baby saw the world as a positive place he could tolerate the pain better than Voldermort. Then when Harry went to Hogwarts he found friends and a caring community plus many adult mentors such as Dumbledore. These things combined gave him the resilience to look towards a better future. Voldermort when he entered Hogwarts stayed consumed with rage and had no sense of connection and so he turned to the Dark arts and became a sociopath who wanted to take over the world. The article states that Harry focused on the needs of his community and fought to live peacefully and to rid the wizarding world of the darkness caused by the terror wrought by Lord Voldermort. We all know who was the victor in the end, “the boy who lived” because of his mother’s love. So, one of my favorite stories explaining the reasoning behind my passion to create Pinwheel Place, wow. Now to be that caregiver who shows a child they are valued, to be that community that offers resilience, we can all do that and with that bring a world of light into children’s lives instead of darkness and that will create a better future for all just like Harry Potter did.
“Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times if one only remembers to turn on the light” Albus Dumbledore