Dearest Rachel –
I was just reading the other day something about J. K. Rowling; I think it was somebody admiring her political stands in the face of, how shall we say, rather rabid opposition. The author of the piece actually commented how they weren’t a big fan of the Harry Potter series (being more into the Lord of the Rings). They considered Harry Potter to be derivative of most of the Big Tropes of the entire Western canon: a melange of Greek mythology, Latin language incantations, heavy reliance on European heraldic, folk, and fairy tales, and of course, a take on messianic sacrifice and resurrection in the finale.
Said author is entitled to her opinion, and I’m sure Ms. Rowling would not be offended by an unfavorable comparison to the likes of Tolkien: considering that she’s been dealing with doxxing and death threats lately, someone claiming that she doesn’t measure up to some of the greatest fantasy literature out there is hardly of any concern.
Personally, I find Tolkien’s material to be rather dense and hard to wade through, even as an adult. Context is necessary to understand the importance of certain actions, and he is a master at world building, but you get so many details of the world that you wonder what’s truly necessary for the story. Besides, Rowling’s target audience is younger and has a shorter attention span (although I will lay claim to one of those attributes myself), and she has geared her material accordingly.
Besides, the characters are relatable (especially to someone who is enduring a hard time at school) in ways that all those hobbits aren’t so much. None of them are completely perfect, and none of them – with the possible exception of Voldemort himself, and even he has some thing of a start of darkness – is completely and irredeemably evil.
And I’m going to focus on one more thing basically backs up my assertion about various generations; which is to say, we were all the same when we were kids. Consider the Marauders’ map: indeed, consider the Marauders themselves in comparison to the power trio of Ron, Harry and Hermione. Both generations were fighting against the system, in a sort of merry prankster way (although it could be argued that Hermione in particular took things way too seriously most of the time). Some of the earlier generation grew up, such as Lupin, while others, like the somewhat ironically named Sirius, did not (or maybe that was a defense mechanism against the effect of the dementors, who knows?).
And, of course, the map was a key to allowing them – in each generation – to accomplish their subversive tasks. Opened with the affirmation where the user would be required to ‘solemnly swear I am up to no good,’ and closed with the acknowledgment of ‘mischief managed.’
I don’t know why, but that last phrase just appeals to me today. It is such a satisfying thing to acknowledge, a little dopamine rush of having accomplished what you set out to do, that allows you to say that you have managed your mischief. And so it was today, albeit not without its hiccups.
Shortly after Chris wrapped up cleaning the house and headed out, I got into your car to take care of Christmas shopping. Our family has their usual project of helping someone out this season, and I have been informed of specific gift cards that I needed to collect toward that end – not to mention a separate stop for the ladies in the family. As it turned out, it should have been eminently doable, as the stores were, for the most part, on a single short strip of road.
But first, barely a block from the house, my phone rang. It turned out to be the mechanics, who had finished installing the battery in my own car. That was a story in and of itself, has the battery I purchased for myself at Costco turned out to be the wrong type – the terminals were switched around, rendering it unusable for my car. Well, that’ll teach me to go there in the future. In any event, they had a battery at the mechanics that would work just fine, so I had them install that instead. And now they were done; which meant I needed to turn around, collect Daniel, and have him drive me to pick up the car. It could’ve been worse; I could’ve been halfway across town, I suppose.
With that being settled, I headed for that strip of road on which the grocery store, big box store and gas station were all located. The grocery store turned out to have a limit on how much you could put on their gift cards, which was lower than I’d intended, but what else can you do? The big box store was quick and straightforward, apart from the person in front of me in line trying to purchase some thing that had no label on it, and therefore no price. And the gas station, well… I pulled in and went inside, only to find that they had no gift cards, as it had recently changed ownership, and was no longer the company I was trying to buy for. The clerk offered an apologetic shrug, giving off an air that suggested he’d had to make that explanation a number of times throughout his shift, and let me know where another gas station that still belonged to the chain I was looking for could be found. It turned out to be reasonably close at hand, and I thanked him, drove there, and took care of business.
From there, my route back home took me through downtown, where I obtained a couple of gifts for the family as mentioned previously. Then, I went past the house, to stop by the card shop that wasn’t open this morning, and pick up cards for the family.
This was a little bit more difficult. It used to be that the two of us would rummage through all manner of cards to come to a consensus regarding the correct sentiment for each member of the family. There was none of that back-and-forth today. Looking at the husband and wife section left me with a empty sensation in the pit of my stomach. And while he’s no more of a card person than you or I ever were, I had to find something for Daniel, even though there was no ‘looks like it’s just me and you from here on out, kid’ sentiment I could find. Even paying for my purchases was a little bit painful, as I had a coupon from the shop made out in your name. I don’t know how to get them to change the name on the rewards card without having to explain everything.
And speaking of coupons, we had one from Meijer that was expiring today, so I went and got a handful of things from there as well. All this in a matter of a little more than two hours. Not bad, I think to myself as I fold up the map. Got everything done and then some, and only felt one twinge of loss in the process.
I guess I could get away with saying, “Mischief managed.”