Whenever I’m feeling bad, or having a rough time, I turn to Hogwarts.
During a rough time a few years back, I listened to the entire Harry Potter book series on audio about three times in a ROW. I filled my nights with all sorts of Wizarding projects before our first real big vacation to Harry Potter World in Orlando, and after we returned, I had even MORE Potter projects on the mind.
So recently, when I was feeling cranky, and a drawing of my daughter didn’t work out the way I had planned, I looked at the page in frustration. The 8-year-old I was trying to draw looked much older. I thought, “I’m getting frustrated–maybe I should head to Hogwarts.” I thought I’d start from scratch and draw one of my beloved professors. And then a fun thought struck me. What if I turned this drawing into my OWN Hogwarts professor?
My first thought was that Hogwarts needed an art class. A wizarding art teacher would be very eclectic, right? Maybe have a few artsy tattoos (ala Sirius Black), with a good mix of Frida and Ms. Frizzle. So I created Professor Eliana Peppercorn, who teaches Traditional and Practical Arts, and decorates her hair with tiny wands she carves out of mandrake roots. She likely teaches traditional magic techniques, as well as hands-on methods. Perhaps Mama Weasley was a guest speaker in her course, demonstrating her knitting techniques…
THIS made me happy. THIS made me smile. I started thinking of other courses…other professors. Hogwarts likely needed a wizarding early history teacher, right? (I mean, aside from Professor Binns, of course, whose classes are legendarily boring…)
I documented a few process shots before settling on a name, which my Instagram readers helped me with. (The best part is reading the funny comments people left, such as “I had him for study hall” or “She gave me detention,” or “I took his course 2nd and 3rd year!”) They seem to be telling me their names as I’m drawing them, or at least a rough idea of how it should sound. So the names are fun. And in the spirit of diversity, I wanted Hogwarts to represent a person of color.
So this is Professor Bonlander Tulumbee, Professor of Ancient and Medieval Wizarding History…
Next, I wanted a “senior” Professor, someone who was very creative, a little spacey, maybe with a mod sort of 70s look…and I created Coriana Hunch, Professor of Dramatic Arts and Dance. (Someone commented that “she tried to start a ballet club, but no one showed up.)
Again, I thought about diversity, and what a forward-thinking move it was (in the books) to hire Firenze the centaur as a professor of divination at Hogwarts. So I wondered who else might be a good hire, and decided that a bold move would be a gobin. Professor Diglish left his position at Gringott’s to teach Economics and Business Management to later-year students. He would probably be very simply dressed in a dull suit, and likely quite boring and grumpy.
I started thinking about the different Houses that professors might come from, and wanted someone a little intimidating. Professor Maglin Severance, a former Slitherin prefect in her day, now leads lab courses in Biological Alchemy. I figured she might be responsible for the mixing of different animals, such as griffins, cockatrice, or such. She’d likely also intermix metallurgy in her course, and so is dressed in dragonscale garments, laced with gold and silver.
As I started thinking of other courses a school might have, I thought of muggle geography, and how it relates to the wizarding world. I imagine maps with levels and layers on top of layers, as in a architectural drawing of a multi-level building. Professor Hanson Pembrake maps all that out for us in Spatial Geography.
I’ve got tons of other ideas, of wizarding versions of muggle courses: Like Shop, Home Economics, First Aid and Nursing, to name a few. I think it would be so fun to lay out a staff yearbook, with each professor’s portrait, as well as other background info.
I absolutely ADORE the Wizarding World, and these drawings are making me SO happy. I wondered at first if I should have made them from Ilvermorny (the American Wizarding School), but I decided that my love of Hogwarts was irrepressible. I’m having so much fun creating little lives for them, and listening to the comments people have, treating them as if they are real professors, and they each make me smile.
The other day, Myla and I had a great idea to give our old Gnome House a reboot. We made it when she was around age four, and it’s gotten pretty old and dusty. We went to the craft store, picked up a few things, and got everything ready.
Overflowing with ideas, Myla excitedly said, “oh, we could put a little blanket in there, and some flowers, and remember how the gnomes came and made little footprints and even left us a little note?”
And then her face froze. “Or….” she said very carefully, with starling clarity. “…Or…did YOU leave the note?”
I was a little startled. I make a point not to EVER lie to my daughter about important things, and while I love magic, I’ve always hated to “lie” about those traditional things like Santa and the Tooth Fairy. But somehow, as a parent, you get sort of peer-pressured into doing all that, right? I’ve always made a point to tell her “it’s real if you BELIEVE it’s real.” But deep down, I always assumed she knew it was all pretend. I used to even ask her “do you want to know the truth, or the story?” …and she ALWAYS very seriously chose the story.
She said, “I wasn’t sure if it was real. But there was a NOTE, so….that was you?” Urg. My heart sank.
If you’re a long-time reader of this blog, you might remember the Gnome House story, and how we talked about how magical things were real if you believed they were real.
I had always told her that Santa was more an IDEA, and that you can make your own Christmas by doing nice things for others. And then, what did we do? We left cookies and milk for Santa.
When she started losing teeth, SHE came to me, excited that the tooth fairy would leave her a coin. So what could I do? I left a coin, and a little receipt that said “thank you! -Tooth Fairy.”
A couple of years ago, her classroom had an Elf on the Shelf, and I was SO grateful, thinking I had escaped THAT dreaded curse. Until we walked into a store, and there they were: HUNDREDS of elves for sale, waiting to sit on shelves. She GASPED saying, “we can adopt our OWN?!?!?” So what could I do? I had to start putting that dang elf into goofier and goofier situations for her to discover every day of December.
So, as we dusted off the old gnome house and decorated it, we talked a lot about magic. I told her that I had offered her the truth SEVERAL times, and she didn’t want it. Of course she preferred the fairy tale, who wouldn’t?
We painted over the old art, and filled it with new, and I talked to her, like a grownup. Like I always do.
First, I asked if she was sad. She said no, not at all–that she was just a little confused. She was just trying to piece it all together.
I said, I really don’t like to not tell you to the truth. And I don’t want you to think I am lying to you. But there are magic secrets as a parent that you sort of go along with it. Because kids are born with special magic, and parents REALLLY don’t want kids to lose that. Because as you get older, and more cranky about things, you start thinking everything’s terrible and nothing is fun. When you become a teenager, you sort of lose that magic for a moment, and don’t believe in it anymore, and everything seems like it sucks.
Magic is hard to see. Bad things are MUCH easier to see. But here’s a secret: If you look around and you can’t find any magic, you can CREATE your own! And that’s why parents do things like that. So kids don’t lose their magic. Life would be boring without any magic…
We talked about other things, too. It wasn’t ALL serious. There were lots of giggles and goofiness. It wasn’t an after-school special TV drama or anything.
I told her that as artists, we’re very lucky, because we have EXTRA magic. We get to paint it, sculpt it, animate it, and show it to other people who might not be able to see it themselves. We get to help keep that magic alive in people.
She seemed to happily accept all of this, but I felt my heart break inside a little. I don’t remember when I first navigated this stuff myself, but my parents handled it well, because I don’t seem to have any lifelong trauma from it all. But I still can’t help but imagine that I heard her heart break a little.
We finished our gnome house, which she called “Pixies Place,” where all things are welcome. She only wrote a few of them on the list, but you get the idea.
The next day (after talking to both my husband and then my mother as to what to do), I took her out for ice cream, and we talked more about it. I said, “here’s the thing: now that you’re old enough, YOU get to be a magic maker for other people. I kept the magic around for you as long as I could when you were younger. Now that you’re older, you keep the magic for other kids.” “And sometimes, even for grownups who have lost their magic!” she said. And that’s exactly right.
My mom had a great idea, of maybe a “symbol” of graduation, or initiation into this sort of “big kid club,” so I gave her a little necklace I used to wear as a teen…a little fairy with a glass bead ball. It looked like magic to me, and seemed to fit the situation perfectly.
She said if you looked closely, you can imagine all sorts of colors in it–for all of the holidays, and all of the magic. She seemed pretty happy and proud. I was glad.
And I hope that’s enough. I want her to have that special magic, but she does need to know that sometimes YOU are the one that makes the magic, and that’s okay!
You really do have to LOOK for that magic as you grow up, because it gets harder and harder to find the older you get. And if you get to the point where you just can’t find it, you have to MAKE some magic yourself. It’s the best we can do.