Handala and Harry Potter

Over Winter Break, my children started to read Harry Potter. A fan myself, my heart was swelling with joy and pride. Eight years old and holding their books, sometimes to the light of a mobile phone to read, I was thrilled that they have discovered the joy of reading, the escape into a good book’s pages. And Harry, Hermoine and Ron were good characters to fall in love with, or at least that is what I thought.

I would take Hermoine over any Disney princess, any day. Knowledgeable, well read, knows her way around any library, intelligent and inquisitive. Hermoine never really needed anyone to help her, she never batted her eyelashes to get Ron or Harry to do anything for her. So, yes, I was thrilled, that we were out of the princess and prince woods and into the Harry Potter world.

And yes of course I prefer Harry and Ron over any Disney prince, from Prince Charming who went on his good looks and toothy smile to sleeping beauty’s prince, who apparently kissed girls in their sleep, without their consent one would assume (imagine if sleeping beauty got up and slapped him…that would have been funny)

Ron’s humility, his sense of humor, his loyalty and his arachnophobia make him approachable and believable. He is a character with so much humanity that one cannot help but love him. He tells a human story of friendship. For children, making friends is their first experience in building relationships, and creating their own social space where they grow, learn, experiment and express themselves. And Ron does exactly that, out of a very ordinary family (nothing ordinary about Mrs. Weasley’s kitchen, yet still apart from the magic, the Weasley’s are a hardworking middle class, maybe lower middle class family), Ron makes friends, and brings values like honesty and loyalty to life.

And there is Harry, rising from the ashes of tragedy, with a good heart, despite all the evil he has seen. Harry was no different than many children across the world today. Losing his parents in a war, turning into a refugee as a baby; sent to live in a cellar underneath the stairs; mistreated by those who claimed to be family, but adamantly refused to treat him as their own. Judged for who he is and where he came from, I couldn’t help but think of all the refugee children who met the same fate Harry had. The interconnections between the two stories stared back at me, and there was one child, one particular refugee child that kept popping in my head…his hands clasped behind his back, his patched shirt, his bare feet vividly dancing in front of my face, a black and white outline of a character, Handala…

Without any magic, or a Dumbeldore to look after him, Handala is practically on his own, he was and remains ten (maybe 11) years old. Having lost everything, Handala does not grow up; over the years and decades he remains a child..His face turned away from the world, his hands clasped behind his back, he patiently waits to return home. On the walls of refugee camps spray painted, he waits. He swings helplessly from silver key chains, his back still turned to the world, he faithfully waits. On the chests of young women he hangs from necklaces nestled under warm scarves wrapped artfully around their necks, or heads; he rests listening to their heartbeats and he tirelessly waits. Shared as an animation, or printed in white and black in newspaper cartoons, Handala never shows us his face; all he does us wait. One wonders if beyond the turned back there are tears; or a patient smile, or a sarcastic look…Or maybe he is angry?

Handala is no different than Harry. And if they ever met, maybe they would become friends? Harry would teach him how to swing a wand (Hermoine would be the one to teach him different spells though, especially the complicated ones); or how to use the Pensieve to collect memories. Or they might been perfectly content eating chocolate frogs, and vanilla wafers, on the Hogwarts Express laughing and talking. Harry’s scar would match Handala’s scratched marks. Handala would share a citrusy orange, while telling Harry how much he wishes to see his home again. Harry would swoop Handala on a quick trip over Palestine. They may be mistaken for a handmade drone, and may have to escape the iron dome missiles quickly, but Harry would handle the situation and disapparate them back to the train cart safely.

They would argue over which is the more interesting game Quidditch or Football (the real football, i.e. soccer). The argument would be heated, Harry would claim that football is boring; no one gets to fly, there is only one ball, and it rarely leaves the grass. Handala would defend football, and argue that quidditch cannot be played anywhere anytime, but football is not constrained to the field and the match. All you need is a ball, two stones as your goal post and children who want to play. In fact the most beautiful football is played on the streets with makeshift balls and very loud children. However, Handala would marvel at the opportunity to fly freely to the highest of altitudes on a broomstick. Both children would agree that Quidditch and soccer are far better than American football, and would joke at the weird shaped ball and the grunting player faces. They would laugh and quickly turn to eat more chocolate.

Harry’s scar would burn, Handala’s shadowy scratches would tingle, and they would become fast friends. Harry would smile, Handala would stand with his hands clasped, his face staring out the window, and would secretly smile. Harry wouldn’t see Handala’s face, and being a wizard, having met all kinds of magical creatures, he wouldn’t mind.

Handala would think Harry is a magical hero, but it is Harry, in his humility and kindness who is quick to recognize that it is Handala who is magical and heroic. Muggle born, with no supernatural powers, no wand, no magic, Handala is just as mysterious, just as enamoring, and just as heroic; his power is patience and perseverance…

Everyone knows Harry Potter’s happy ending, but we still wait for Handala’s happy ending to come. We can only hope it would be as magically just as Harry’s

In the meantime, I stand in my kitchen baking ginger bread cookies in the shape of Handala; I decorate them and bring them to life on my kitchen counter. The kids are curious…they ask questions, the conversation takes on all kinds of shapes, they want to know what will happen next to Handala, they want to read on about Harry (although they know the ending too well), we talk, we dream, we imagine what Handala’s face might look like. We agree that the only happy ending is for Handala to return home…

As I sit down to write this, they read over my shoulder; and as the questions continue , my heart fills with hope.

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