It’s bedtime on a Friday night. All of us are hanging around in the living room. We are discussing the fact that we bought tickets for the opening night of the Harry Potter movie.

Justin and Emily and I have been the champions of Harry Potter in our household. Justin and I have played Harry Potter trivia a dozen times. He always whips me. He can name all the flavors of Bertie Bott’s All Flavor Beans, knows the fastest time Harry Potter caught the snitch and remembers which kind of dragon egg Hagrid won gambling in Hogsmeade. We’ve read the books twice and listened to the tapes umpteen times. Last summer when we drove to Utah, we listened to Harry Potter for hours in the car, much to Joan’s chagrin. She wanted peace and quiet, not hours of Harry Potter. But despite her misgivings about our obsession, she’s coming to see the movie with us. She’s a good sport and this is a family outing we’re all looking forward to. It’s so rare that we can embrace pop culture wholeheartedly.

Justin says, “Let’s play Harry Potter trivia.”

I say, “You better make it really easy if you’re going to play with Mama Joan.”

Justin runs to get a piece of paper and a pencil. He hands it to Joan. He says, “Okay, we’re going to ask you questions. Write the number 1 and then your answer. Then write 2 underneath and put the next answer. Keep going down the page.”

Getting into the spirit of the moment, I chime in, “And if you get it wrong, you have to write the correct answer three times.”

Justin is chortling. That’s what he has to do with his spelling words every week. After our endless fights about spelling, I know he’s getting a real kick out of this.

“Okay,” Justin begins, “Who is Harry Potter’s worst enemy?”

Joan draws a blank. “That person who isn’t human? Who’s like a monster?”

Emily, laughing: “No, not Voldemort!” (As in, “Any dummy would know that!”) “It’s Malfoy! Draco Malfoy!”

I chime in. “I have a question. What is the name of Harry Potter’s School?”

Joan is stumped again. Finally she asks, “What letter does it start with?”


There’s a silence while we wait. We can’t believe she doesn’t know this one. Emily is rolling on the floor, unable to contain her mirth. Joan: “I give up!”

Emily and Justin together, “Hogwarts!”

Justin says, “Okay, Joan. This is number 3. What house is Harry Potter in?”

Surprisingly, Joan gets this one, “Griffindor?”

“Right!” Justin asks, “Who is Harry’s least favorite teacher?”


For anyone who knows Harry Potter, this is truly hysterical. Dumbledore, the headmaster at Hogwarts, is the epitome of goodness and wisdom. “It’s Snape, Mama Joan,” Emily corrects her. “Severus Snape! Don’t you know anything?” She is laughing so hard, she can hardly speak. “I’m laughing so hard I peed in my pants! And my tummy hurts!”

I’ve never seen Emily like this. Joan is taking our teasing awfully well. We continue our ambush. “I have one,” I call out. I whisper my idea in Emily’s ear. She runs back to Joan, “Mama Joan, ‘What position does Harry Potter play on the Griffindor quidditch team?’

“I don’t know.”

Justin, eight-going-on-nine and a stickler for the rules, “Okay, leave it blank! You’re going to have to write the answer three times! He’s the seeker!”

“My turn,” Justin says, “What’s the name of Harry Potter’s owl?”

“Justin,” I jump in, laughing. “That’s too hard! That’s like Harry Potter medium. You need to ask really easy questions.”

Emily jumps up with excitement and delight. “This is dumb Harry Potter trivia.”

Justin agrees joyfully, “This is Harry Potter for Dummies!”

I jump in, “This is how easy the questions should be. ‘What’s the name of Harry Potter’s adopted family?’

Joan thinks she’s got it. “The Beasleys?”

Those of us in the know crack up. The Weasley’s are Harry’s best friends. They’re the family he wishes he could have. The relatives he is forced to live with are the Dursleys.

Joan asks, “What letter does their name start with?

The kids yell delightedly, “D!”

Joan asks questioningly, “The Doosleys?”

We all roll on the floor some more.

I ask, “Okay, what’s the name of Harry Potter’s best friend who’s a girl?”

Joan gets this one. “Hermione.”

“Here’s one,” Emily says, “What’s the name of the ball that Harry Potter has to catch?”

Joan is ready for this one, “The quidditch ball!”

Justin replies, “Yes, but which quidditch ball! There’s more than one!”

Joan looks blank. Emily jumps in, delighted to trump her mother, “The golden snitch!”

The kid’s joy is infectious. Joan asks good-naturedly, “Okay who’s next, humiliate me some more.”

Justin jumps in: “Okay, here’s a real dumb question. What does Harry Potter fly on ?”

Joan’s got this one down cold: “A broom.”

Emily asks, “In which book does Harry Potter meet the basilisk?”

“The fourth?”


“The third?”


“The second.”

The kids yell delightedly, “Yes!”

Deadpan, Joan asks, “What’s a basilisk?”

Justin: “It’s a giant serpent!”

Joan’s laughing, but she’s ready to stop. “Okay, that’s it.”

Justin says, “Add up your score.”

“I got three right,” Joan tallies. “I think I got a D.”

The kids are delighted with their victory. Tonight, they are the champions. They have triumphed over one of their parents and they are reveling in glory. And Joan is gracious enough to give them this moment.

Dumbledore would be proud.

Back to list