October 8, 2012

It’s a lot like Hogwarts…

Posted in Between Us column at 4:32 pm by dinaheng

I miss Harry Potter. The tales of the boy who went to Hogwarts School for Wizardry captured the hearts and imaginations of more than one generation, and became a cultural phenomenon that reminded the world to believe in magic.

Last weekend, I visited with my nephew Peter, a junior who attends The Lawrenceville School, a private co-ed boarding and day school in New Jersey. His father enjoys working internationally, so Peter, his brother Sam, and their mom (my sister) have lived in numerous countries abroad — The Netherlands, Malaysia, and now Oman.

While there are three English language high schools in Oman, Peter chose to attend Lawrenceville in the United States, and Sam is getting ready to choose his high school, as well.

In January 2011, I spent a snowy Martin Luther King weekend with Peter during his first year at Lawrenceville. Having learned English from British teachers, he had a marked British accent, and I couldn’t help but think of Harry Potter when we talked.

He was so excited about being on his own, and since he lived in a “house” where you had to sign in and out before leaving campus, he was anxious to get back each night before curfew. I was curious to see how things have changed two years later.

The first thing I noticed last weekend was how much taller he is. The second was that he’s lost his British accent. “It’s too bad,” he said, when I mentioned it. The charming lilt from childhood has given way to the deeper voice of young adulthood, and the ready boyish smile is a tad more serious these days.

He still loves Lawrenceville, and has no regrets about spending his high school days there. “It’s a lot like Hogwarts,” he says, noting that this year, he’s living in one of the nicest houses on campus. There’s definite rivalry between the houses, but unlike many places, Peter says there’s no bullying at this school.

“There are a lot of international students here, and people respect each other,” he says.

Life is filled with classes, jazz band, soccer practice, and he’s helping as a tour guide for  prospective students and their families. He’s working on sets for the annual musical and is looking forward to getting his driver’s license. Did anything surprise him about life in boarding school?

“There’a a lot more homework,” Peter says. “The year before coming here, the most homework I had to do was a half hour after school. Now, it’s four or five hours a night.”

Our visit was short — a dinner one night, and lunch the next day — before I had to leave for New York and business meetings. For him, it was no doubt long enough. Teenagers, after all, prefer the company of their peers.

For me, it was all too short. The older we get, the more precious time with loved ones becomes. In a world where families are scattered far and wide, the chance to hug and say “I love you” should be taken at every opportunity.

Hogwarts may just be a memory as the years go by, but if we’re lucky, the spirit of Harry Potter will stay alive and well — even if we only get a glimpse of it through the eyes of the young.

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