When my little sister started exhibiting the symptoms of tweendom – texting, talking back, wearing glitter eyeshadow – my dad was flummoxed. How could he keep his strong fatherly ties to his baby girl in the face of all this newfound sass and maturity?
Needing something to reopen the lines of communication, he turned to pop culture. At the time, she was into a new, colorful Disney Channel show called Hannah Montana. Hit with teenybopper inspiration, my dad went to Claire’s and bought her a bright pink watch with Miley Cyrus’ big chompin’ smile on it. Then, they sat down to enjoy an episode together.
It wasn’t a bad plan. Books and TV have always been my parents’ way into their kiddies’ hearts. No complaints.
When I was growing up, the four members of my family always wore themed costumes for Purim, which is, in John McCain’s words, “Jewish Halloween.” The Purim I turned fifteen, I convinced my entire family to dress like characters from The Lord of the Rings.
I was Frodo, my blond sister was Legolas, my rugged, bearded dad was Aragorn, and my mom was beautiful Arwen. She even glued latex elf tips on her ears. Removing them that night caused pained shrieks and torn skin, but my mom never complained about “the Purim of the Rings.”
I’ve never felt more loved.
In the past, to appease the fandom desires of their kids, my parents have: attended midnight screenings of all LOTR movies, seen four *NSync concerts, dressed up like the Teletubbies, driven two hours to a book signing by the cast of ‘RENT’ and DVRed every episode of Ryan Seacrest’s daily talk show. (Remember that? Of course you don’t.)
The big one for me and my mom was Harry Potter. I was nine when the first book came out. My mom read chapters to me every night as a bedtime story.
We shared Harry Potter for the next ten years – seeing the movies together, discussing theories about the final book and buying Slytherin (me) and Gryffindor (her) merchandise.
Six years ago, when I went to college, Potterdom waned and my unsupervised house (unfortunately?) became a Cullen vampire den. My sister plastered her bedroom door with posters of Robert Pattinson’s cold, pale face. My mom unflinchingly referenced their shared Twilight obsession to two hundred people in a speech she gave at our synagogue.
Sure, she’d been a “Potterhead” with me, but loving Twilight let my mom into my sister’s usually closed-off teenage life. Maybe my sis would never tell my mom about crazy high school parties or share her endless boy troubles, but my mom felt she’d always have a close bond with her youngest daughter through Bella Swan’s story.
Last year, I started the first book of the Hunger Games trilogy out of mild curiosity and then didn’t pick my head up off the pages for a week. It was like time travel. One minute I was in my room casually opening the book; the next, my hair was braided and I was wearing a bow and a quiver of arrows on my back.
When I finished the book, I texted my mom to tell her she should read it. I wasn’t expecting her to actually do it though. I’d grown up. She didn’t need to relate to me through pop culture anymore. We could just talk like two boring adults. Secretly, I missed flailing about a series with her.
She called me a few weeks later to say she’d finished the entire Hunger Games series and was obsessed. She was eager to dissect Katniss’ woes and expound on the book’s larger, relevant themes of poverty and oppression. Just when I started thinking I was too old to dive back into fangirl discussions with my mom, it was starting again.
I now live thousands of miles away from home, but it felt like I was back in my childhood bed, tucked in tight, with my mom reading The Sorcerer’s Stone beside me: “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much…”
“Why do you always get into the stuff I’m into?” I asked her recently, during a conversation about seeing the Hunger Games movie when it comes out on Friday at the same time but in different cities because we’re nerds.
“You sharing a book with me always makes me happy,” my mom replied. “It’s priceless that you’re willing to share the whole experience of it with me.”
“Aw, Mom,” I told her. “The pleasure’s always been all mine.”