Sunday, I sat down with my parents for almost two hours to talk about my early days of fandom, and why they ever let me run wild on the internet almost 10 years ago. It was exciting to look back on days I’ve since forgotten, remembering how much I’ve sacrificed, and how different my life would be if I hadn’t gone to my first convention. My parents have been good sports about all this from the beginning, but both have had very different reactions to my fandom love affair.
Dad: I read The Chronicles of Narnia series seven times. A family friend gave me a copy of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe when I was 12. Back then there was no fandom, no one for me to talk to, but I understood the whole idea of loving a book series so much you want to spend time submersed in it. I had the same experience.
Mom: I just didn’t relate as well. I thought it was weird.
Dad: Which is interesting because Harry Potter was a family thing, you read the books to everyone.
Mom: For me it was harder because you were so obsessive. It was just like “calm down! Who are these people, who cares?” I was so adamant about reading books as a family even when I have never been a huge reader. I like juvenile books, loved reading out loud and reading to the kids. But I don’t like to read on my own, so I never got the draw.
Hannah: How did you feel about your 16 year old daughter talking to strangers online? The internet was still kind of new, why did you let me do it?
Dad: There was this moment that I keep thinking back to, when we were remodeling the house and we had to take the computer down for a few days and you started shaking from withdrawals so I set it up for you in the kitchen and you sat on the floor.
Mom: This all made me nervous, I didn’t like it. But the thing that really helped was you weren’t going somewhere to meet these people, you were in our house and we had control. You shared with us what was going on, so it wasn’t ever a secret.
Dad: We were very open with the three of us. We felt like we knew what was going on, and this added to our already ample measure of trust in you. You want your kids to have experiences and do things, but early on you want it to happen under your watchful eye. We tried really hard not to be obstructionist but stayed involved and connected.
Mom: We all knew about these people, you were talking about them all the time, and Dad even started listening to MuggleCast and PotterCast so we could have conversations about it. Honestly, it was a nice way to connect. Remember when you got your first MuggleCast shout-out? It was the first time you ever ran through the house screaming with joy. Not even on Christmas or birthdays did you get that excited, and we tried so hard! That was a seminal moment.
H: Did you ever do any research on your own?
Dad: I did, some. I checked into your friends to make sure they were actually 17 year old high school kids, and not gross men in their basements.
Mom: You know I wasn’t very for it. I had a lot more reservations than Dad, but he said it’s cool, don’t freak out.
Dad: I was more involved so my comfort level was higher. For Mom it was more of a level of unknown, added element of concern.
Mom: You aren’t a hugely social person to begin with, and you’ve always had huge reservations about talking to people. It made me nervous for you to go into a world that took you away from being more social in person. You often picked your online friends over outings with high school friends. You had a hard time getting out of your bubble and was afraid you’d get sucked in. But I was pleasantly surprised years down the road how nice the people you met where, and how good of friends they’d become.
H: Did you think this was a phase, initially?
Dad: You’re not a phase kinda kid. This was consistent with your personality and love of books. We expected you to stay involved. You have to remember, right around this time you saw Pirates of the Caribbean 7 times in theaters over the span of 15 days.
Mom: I hoped it was a phase
Dad: She still does. This is an intervention, ha!
H: I don’t really remember how the conversation of Lumos , my first convention, came up. But I do remember I just had to pay for the plane ticket.
Dad: I thought we told you you couldn’t go. We said no. But all along as we were telling you no, I was arranging depositions for work in Las Vegas. I told the plaintiffs counsel I had to do it on that day so I could take you. We were telling you you couldn’t go.
Mom: I didn’t want you to go! I was not super happy even with Dad being there. I thought this was only driving you farther and farther down the path of obsession. I was super nervous because I thought they were going to be weird, etc. But you were 17 at this point, and I remember the conversations I had with your Dad saying “we have to let you out into the world eventually.”
Dad: Why not Vegas?
Mom: We are crazy! And our friends thought we were crazy!
Dad: I can remember to this day picking you up at the airport. You were very very very nervous. Why was that?
H: It was my first convention, the first time I met these people in person! There was a lot riding on that weekend, I’d built it up so much. It could have gone a lot of different ways, and I was just scared. I vividly remember my stomach in my throat as the airplane landed. I still get jitters.
Dad: Do you remember me arguing with the lady about some form at registration?
Mom: You got in an argument?
Dad: Hannah was freaked out because she thought I was causing a scene, but the lady wanted me to sign some dumb form.
H: I’m on the other side of that now. I have to be that lady now, you do realize that.
Dad: Don’t make people sign dumb forms and you won’t have any problems!
H: What did you expect to see at the convention? Did you have any kind of expectations about what it would be like, or who you would meet?
Dad: Your friends were very very nice, polite and respectful. For a lot of the convention I sat there in the lobby or I walked around. I was there more than you knew. I saw some parents with their kids too, so I felt very comfortable. I remember you stayed with me in the hotel down the street, we wouldn’t have let you stayed in the main hotel by yourself back then.
Mom: We talked about how normal all these kids seemed. Well educated, well spoken, just like you. It was a crowd that loved the books and were making something out of it. That made a big difference, especially when you were talking about your friends, their plans for the future and their families. There were a few people you met that I didn’t like, but for the most part everyone was nice and well educated.
Dad: To this day I am friends on Facebook with a lot of them.
Mom: You were 17. This was a big difference from being 14 or 15. And at that time, we hadn’t heard all the internet horror stories yet, it was all still so new. Stories of girls running off with random boys, we hadn’t heard that stuff.
Dad: Maybe we were naive, but I really feel like we did our homework. We didn’t just drop you off at this place with a wand and a dream.
Mom: Making you buy your own tickets, do it your own way, to me always showed your level of commitment. If you were willing to work and make money to make it happen, it was important to you and made me much more eager to support.
Dad: We couldn’t think of anything that would have made you happier in that time of your life so thats why we did that. And now I am fandom famous because I went to Lumos.
H: After I got home from the convention, did your feelings toward fandom or my involvement change?
Mom: It was a gradual. I felt a little more comfortable, but I wasnt 100%. Dad was much more comfortable a lot earlier on. I started to get a little but more concerned because you got more involved with these people. It wasn’t until after Lumos that you really started missing social events and things.
Dad: It was important to me how you interacted with them at the convention, and after. I wanted you to be able to be yourself. They loved you, and I noticed how you were best friends from the second you got together. I could tell that it was an innocent, nice thing. And not really weird.
Mom: The next summer when you ran off to LA with some Harry Potter friends, that soured us. That was not our favorite thing. I remember you basically said “I am going.” You gave up a trip to Paris with your Grandma to go on that trip and I was so disappointed. Plus, you were leaving for college and we only had a couple more weeks with you.
H: Were you worried about me drinking or getting into trouble?
Mom: It wasn’t a convention, you were just running around and we didn’t know the people you were with or feel like they were responsible. I’m your Mom, I can sense what’s going on. But you have to have experiences where you make choices, and we had to let you do that. I wasn’t worried about you drinking, I was worried about the people around you. When you are in those situations bad things happen. But you were 18 and we had to let you start making some of your own choices.
H: I totally just went, didn’t I?
Mom: It was funny, you were such a scaredy cat—you hated these things. We couldn’t get you to spend the night anywhere. The thought that you were ok in these weird crazy places, “Hannah won’t go to the grocery store but she’ll run to LA with these people,” that was crazy to us.
H: You guys often cite that time my friends drove me from Toronto to New York City so I could catch a flight home from my second convention, as a moment when you realized these people and these friendships were legitimate.
Dad: Let me paint the picture. Mom was crying because her daughter was stranded in various airports across the country, and I was crying because we were buying tickets at full fare to get you home. But we had a lot of confidence in the fact that your friends stuck with you, and that was important to us.
Mom: You missed our family vacation to go on that trip.
Dad: At that point it wasn’t about the people, we thought the whole thing was irresponsible and ill considered. You spent a lot of money, worked at a dumb kitchen job, which you made the best of, but we thought it was sub optimal.
Mom: You chose that over family, you chose that to be poor. We thought you were sacrificing too much to make this happen
Dad: You were making decisions you may not have made in a more reasonable setting. And once again, we felt like we could have put our foot down, but we felt like you had to learn how to make decisions and have consequences.
H: How has fandom shaped my life?
Mom: In general, of course it has been a positive thing. You have gained great friends and some very different people. These experiences that have really shaped you, expanded your horizons and helped you socially. You’ve felt more comfortable and adventurous than you maybe would have been otherwise. I don’t think its bad to be passionate about something. It’s so ingrained in who you are its hard to separate what you would have done without it and what you did because of it.
Dad: Your love of books helped encourage your siblings to follow in your example. You set the example for something that was important to us. We wanted you to be readers and to love it. Over all of course its been a positive part in the tapestry of your life. It has helped mold you into the person you’ve become, who we love. Would you still be awesome without Harry Potter? Probably. Overall we would have sent you to Lumos again.
Mom: I would definitely do it again. In the end I kind of hate the whole thing, but it got you your first job! I’m a little jealous you get to go to these conventions now and run it. This has given you so many opportunities, opened up doors. Right now you’re writing about it, what’s bad about that?
Dad: It has enriched your life and that’s what we’re glad about. Every smart parent wants their kid to be passionate about something.
Mom: And what would we rather you be passionate about, Twilight ?
Dad: Or People Magazine? This has a literary aspect. We’ve all read the books, there’s a good message in there. It can be summarized by that Dumbledore quote, you are defined by your choices. Thats a message we were happy about. We never saw the books as a-religious or amoral. It was fantasy, but it is about friendship and loyalty. We were good with it. What made us comfortable was that we were involved in it with you, it was something we could connect with.
Dad: I would say if your child is passionate, go on the journey with them, let them know you care, and be part of your child’s life. That will pay rich rewards for them and for you.