Essay: Mother’s Day, Harry Potter, and Doing What you Love
When I was born, I couldn’t read (please hold your applause).
As so many of my fellow babies began to learn their ABCs and read sentences, I soon fell behind in school. I wasn’t performing at the expected level of my classmates and so had to be put into the slow reading class, which did not gel with my self-image as a clever clogs/cool dude.
A woman taught me in the special reading class with giant frizzy grey hair and big thick glasses that looked like plexiglass, which I never knew how she could read through. In memory, she was a bit like a mad professor, and there was a rumour later that she was expelled for hitting children, but I don’t know if this was true, as she was fairly sound to me. I was fond of her, and she tried her hardest to make me read well, which involved a lot of squinting at alphabets with caterpillars on them and sounding out letters. Still, my hatred of reading only grew, and the extra lessons felt a lot like going to the dentist every day after school and didn’t help me much.
I was deeply ashamed of having to get those extra lessons and didn’t talk to anyone about them. They were only referred to as my’ extra help’, that wasn’t so bad? Everybody needed extra help sometimes. Even some of my friends needed extra help and would come and sit in the tiny wet room after school like inmates doing hard time. Except I was the constant there, and other people came and went as I struggled to do what I needed to do, this went on for nearly two years.
Being learned, my parents saw the importance of getting me into reading, but I was far too busy. Always on the go, dressed as Batman, wrecking the place, there was no time for reading like a nerd. However, I had no problem sitting down for movies, tv shows, or video games, everything about superheroes and stories I was in. Once for a whole year, I only wore superhero costumes. I remember once getting a batman costume for my birthday at dinner and being so excited I put it on and went over to a friend’s house while still eating my spaghetti bolognese off the dinner plate. He brought me into his family dressed as Batman with my spaghetti bolognese and I’m sure they were thinking ‘wtf.’
At this time, my neighbour, that same friend, was the coolest human in the known universe, and he was reading a book called ‘Harry Potter and the philosopher’s stone’ about a teenage wizard who saved the world. This was probably the first book that I ever expressed any interest in reading, and my parents jumped at the opportunity. This was the late nineties, and the first book was a purple hardback copy that had Dumbledore on the back with a brown beard (which I still have to this day). I think a combination of wanting to impress my friend and my parents agreeing to read it to me before bed started me off. My Mam would read a chapter every night before bed, and soon I was hooked. Who knew books could contain such things? I sure didn’t. I thought they only had long and boring words that were hard to pronounce; now, there were wizards and basilisks and curses. I can’t even really remember the times reading but what is clear is the sensation of excitement.
Eventually, waiting for Mam to read became too excruciating, so I started reading ahead on my own, and hey presto, the problem was solved. I never had to go for those special reading classes again, and what was once a chore and a punishment became a deep-felt love. I’m reminded of years later when the release of the Order of the Phoenix came about, and I was in a Dublin airport, and I rushed to get a copy (late for boarding the plane) to the tiny magazine shop on the corner. The yellow hardback cover with the golden Phoenix on the front in my hands - just the thought of having that book there and a journey ahead to read it, my God - that is heaven, a plane journey with a new harry potter book. No exaggeration, I read the series 7 times, 7 books by 7 times, that’s 49 times. I couldn’t get enough of them. This started a cascade of book reading of young adult series and eventually led to me being this ballbag, an author. The problem changed so rapidly that the issue then was I wouldn’t do my school work because I was reading all the time.
The level of comprehension Harry potter gave me stood me all throughout education and definitely was a big part of my love of stories and becoming a writer; why? Well, that’s a big question, but what I really appreciate is my maw for reading me these books because if she didn’t, I’d probably be an accountant right now and rich instead of a smelly writer (feck sake). Big shout out to all the maws out there doing the unseen work; it’s the small things that really matter in the long run x