Harry Potter and the reliving of the midnight book release

It was the summer of 2007 and I was reunited with two dear high school friends who had gone to college on the East Coast. We were all home in Seattle for summer break.

Mo, Allie and I took our last jaunt to Portland for the midnight book release party for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — plus tax-free shopping of the Nordstrom Anniversary sale.  (We had done the same thing two years prior for the release of Half-Blood Prince).

I really thought it was the end. I was sad that this would be our last midnight Harry Potter book event since it was the eighth and final book of the series.

And don’t get me started on how I felt when the last HP movie was coming out


The three of us were in between sophomore and junior year of college. We weren’t even of legal drinking age yet. But the Harry Potter series had been with us since grade school.

Now, in present time, I’m one year away from being 30 — and I went to another Harry Potter midnight book release party. For those of you unaware, the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play script was published into a book and was released on July 31 (same day as Harry Potter’s birthday!) For those of you really unaware, Cursed Child is the story of Harry and the gang 19 years after the final book.

I even wore the same home-made shirt I made nine years ago. (Thank goodness it still fit!)

Bryce tagged along with Phyllis and I and jokingly made comments beforehand that included “What if we are the only ones who show up?” or “What will you guys do if we go and they have cancelled the event because there was not enough interest?”

Phyllis and I had high hopes though.

There were about 100 or so muggles at the Seattle downtown Barnes and Noble. The employees were dressed in house robes. I finally got sorted into Gryffindor.

But, yes, it was weird.

It was like being taken back to a part of my past. The majority of folks who joined the fun were about our age and give-or-take some years younger/older.

Phyllis also wore her homemade T-shirt from nine years ago. Mine said “Defense Against the Dark Arts Major” and hers “I play Quidditch.”

I don’t know if it is irony or what but while we were waiting for midnight to strike, a college boy walked past us wearing a grey sweatshirt with bold print reading “Yale Quidditch”and Phyllis immediately turned to me and exclaimed, “Oh my god, I don’t actually play quidditch!” We both burst out laughing.

Back when we were in college, saying you played quidditch was like saying you were majoring in Defense Against the Dark Arts. But now playing quidditch in college is an actual team sport.


It was a weird experience, but I’m glad we did it.

After all, this was the very last Harry Potter midnight book release.

J.K. Rowling even says there will be no more new stories.

But, I wouldn’t complain if otherwise.


All we wanted was ice cream cake

When someone wants an ice cream cake for his birthday, you get him an ice cream cake.

Unless the ice cream cake shop decides to close — for good.

I was on a mission two Sundays ago to buy an ice cream cake for Bryce’s continued birthday celebration with my family.

When Marissa and I drove into the Baskin Robbins parking lot — a pretty full parking lot — I was shocked to see the “Store Closing” banners.

“Oh no! They are closing??” I said.

I know, I know … no one really cares about ice cream these days. It’s all about the froyo or gourmet-type ice cream like Molly Moon’s. But, Baskin Robbins? Not so much.

But, this Baskin Robbins on Sand Point Way near University Village was one of those “iconic” places. I had my first sugar cone there as a child and cut the roof of my mouth trying to eat it. (After that I only ordered ice cream in a cup, and still do!) We’d frequent the place with my parents after our sports games.

Plus, my mom would always buy ice cream cakes here for my brother’s birthday. (Is liking ice cream cakes just a guy thing?)

When Marissa and I walked into the shop, the standing freezers were empty. Today was in fact the store’s very last day of business. There were no more ice cream cakes. They were selling scoops of ice cream as a BOGO (buy one, get one free) deal.

“Well, you want to get ice cream?” Marissa asked me.

“Sure …” I replied knowing that a scoop of ice cream would make me feel momentarily better. But, it didn’t change the fact that I needed an ice cream cake.

My last scoop was a coconut ice cream in a wafer cone. (They were all out of my favorite, mint chocolate chip). Yes, I decided to go crazy buy having it in a cone!

We ended up not getting an ice cream cake that afternoon. We were on a time crunch so we didn’t have the time to drive across town to another Baskin Robbins. A quick trip to QFC turned up short. (Yes, they sell ice cream cakes, but for $20 they did not seem worth it. Trust me).

The second best thing I could do was buy a regular cake. We ate it with ice cream.

R.I.P Baskin Robbins at Five Corners. A huge towering condo better not be going up in your place.

Kids will be kids

Usually songs or smells are triggers. Not a billboard on the big intersection you go through every day on your drive home from work.

In fact, I’m not even sure if the billboard advertisement was new or if it had been there for weeks. But, I noticed it for some reason yesterday. It’s probably because I was second in line at the red stop light, waiting to turn left. (It’s this crazy intersection where five directions/roads meet. If you get stopped at red, you could be waiting for a bit).

Kids will be kids. We’ll make sure of it.

The two short sentences struck me instantly. I didn’t even have time to think. I was crying. I was waiting for the light to turn green and tears were streaming down my face.

Next to this simple phrase was a picture of a little girl. It was a closeup and her face was covered in dirt and her hair was disheveled. Clearly, she was having fun being a kid.

I couldn’t stop crying. I kept re-reading these two sentences over and over again in my head. As if by the fifth time, maybe it wouldn’t be as sad. It wouldn’t be as poignant. The light signal seemed like it was taking forever to change colors.

This was a billboard advertisement for the local children’s hospital. And, in my opinion, it does a good job getting their message across. This hospital will take care of your kids — so that they can continue to be kids.

But, what if that doesn’t happen?

What if the kid’s life is cut short?

What if the kid never gets a chance to grow up, to graduate college, to get a job and be married and have a family of her own one day?

These were the questions spiraling in my head.

The light finally changed and I followed the car in front of me up the hill toward my house. I was surprised that all these memories and pain came flooding back to me from one small piece of advertisement.

Yes, it was the same hospital she was getting her care at.

Yes, at the time, even at 17, she was still a kid. We were all kids.

But, it’s been nine years. Isn’t the mourning period supposed to be over?

Maybe it’s never over for those who have made a significant impact on your life. For those who truly were the best friend they could be to their friends.

Natalie, I’m thinking of you. 

The camping and running in downpours, the iron-on T-shirts, the graphic design-y stuff, and just the act of being nice to everyone … I will always remember everything you taught us and all the fun we had as kids.

I’ll make sure of it.

Roller skating as an adult: Scary, fun and filled with childhood memories

It wasn’t like going back in time. It was like going back to a skating rink as an adult and being kind of frightened.

My middle school’s 7th grade end-of-year party was at the roller skate rink — at this exact same rink! Back then we didn’t mind that the carpet was discolored or that you had the option to roll your way into the restroom. The fact that the King Dome was “still” painted on a wall along with other Seattle landmarks was also not unusual. At the time, the King Dome had imploded only a few months prior.

Just a little skating on a Saturday night!

Just a little skating on a Saturday night!

Now, 14 years later, the image is outdated. I’m sure new transplants wouldn’t even know what the King Dome was! Also, seeing the same murky-colored carpet was endearing and also disturbing. We were entering a place that time doesn’t affect.  They still gave you a little ticket stub after you paid your entry and rental fee from the little dispenser-thing. There was a “bouncer” at the entrance who took your ticket and directed you to the skate rental counter. The music all night was 70s, 80s and 90s hits.

There was a ticket for rentals and a ticket for entry.

There was a ticket for rentals and a ticket for entry.

Everything was the same.

Only this time, we were not the kids whizzing by carelessly, laughing as we fell to the ground. As an adult, skating is scary! “If I fall, I have a greater distance to travel until my body hits the ground,” I thought to myself as I attempted to skate up to my friends. I felt like I was wearing platforms with wheels. And, never mind you that I ran a half-marathon that same morning.

We were celebrating the birthday of my high school friend, Mo’s husband. It was all in good fun. And, thankfully the birthday boy was having a great time. Who knew he was such a talented skater! (I’m being serious here).

And, it was all in good fun. After I took a break by myself watching other skaters, I went back on the rink. I couldn’t be the wall-flower-skater who just stood and watched, right? Once I got into a rhythm, or attempted to, it was less scary. It was still terrifying when a kid would fall right in front of or next to you though! I wasn’t experienced enough to even stop and ask “Are you OK?” Because, God forbid they say, “no.” There was no way I had any sort of gracefulness to be able to bend down and lift them back up. This is when I try to casually yet awkwardly skate by and make it seem like I was bad enough where I obviously couldn’t give a helping hand but nice enough where I did care about the child’s well-being and safety.

Taking a break for all the excitement.

Taking a break from all the excitement.

Not only were there talented kid-skaters but there were quite a number of adults who clearly weren’t at their first rodeo. “I didn’t know skating was still a big thing!” my friends kept saying over and over again. We were impressed. These girls had their own personal skates. These guys knew what “shoot the duck” was when the DJ announced that it would be the next game coming up.

I hadn’t gone back in time.

The bottom photo is one I took of my friends outside of Skate King circa 2000.

The bottom photo is one I took of my friends outside of Skate King circa 2001.

As an adult, I returned to a place that brought back memories of my childhood. I wasn’t a great skater back then and neither am I now.

But, you know I’m always down to have fun and give a few laughs. Just don’t ask me to skate backwards or shoot the duck.

Songs from the past

“Wow, I haven’t heard this song in forever!” he said.

Forever meant since high school, for Bryce. I had the radio playing in the car and we couldn’t decide if it was an old Goo Goo Dolls or Matchbox Twenty song we were hearing.

They say smells can really bring up memories. I agree.

I think sound — mainly songs — can also do the same.

I have a bunch of music on my computer, most of which I hardly ever listen to. I’m the type of person who used to buy a CD and would listen to the album over and over and over and over again for weeks on end. I would listen to it until I memorized the lyrics to most of the songs (and I’m pretty bad at memorizing song lyrics just because half the time I hear something different from what the artist is actually singing!) I would listen to the songs while driving. I would listen to them while at home. I would listen to them with my headphones in as I did homework or studied.

The CD player in my car broke many years ago, so now it’s just the radio on my commute to and from work. (I know, I don’t even have one of those adaptors for my phone!)

But, every once in a while when an “old” song comes up, I am reminded of another time in my life. I’ll remember exactly what grade I was in. I’ll remember the song from a school dance. I’ll remember singing to it with my friends in middle school at a sleep over. I’ll remember the way the song made me feel — usually happy, but sometimes not.

So, forever more, the following will always be songs from [insert grade/year/age]:

Life in Cartoon Motion, MIKA – Sophomore year of college.

Songs About Jane, Maroon 5 – 16 y/o when I drove myself to school and listened to the album for the better half of an entire school year.

“Hold On”, Wilson Phillips – Elementary school, or even earlier. There are home videos of me singing along to this sister-trio hit.

“Faith”, George Michael – Again, elementary school, or even earlier. I thought it was a catchy song then and I think it still is now. And yes, I know all the words.

Taylor Swift (first two albums) – I was late to catch on to the awesomeness of T-Swift. So, it wasn’t until junior year of college when I listened (non-stop) to her first two albums.

No Strings Attached, N*Sync – Making up dance moves to “Bye Bye Bye” in my room with Gwen in 7th grade.


I know there are more songs I have attachments or associations with, but these are the ones that come to mind right away. It’s all very, you know, nostalgic.



Bon Odori — Dancing with mom

When I was little, it was just an activity my family and I did every summer. We’d stake out our plot of grass along the sloped street and my dad and younger brother would hold down the fort (and eat) while the girls danced.

I’d follow my mom around and act like I knew the moves. Of course, I’d sneak away for a few dances to eat shave ice or just sit and watch while others did the “complicated dances” that involved two folding fans.

I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed all of it.

Until every so often, we’d be out of town during Bon Odori — either visiting family in Hawaii or Japan.

I would be bummed that we wouldn’t be dancing like coal miners or fishermen.

Always eating

Always eating

Bon Odori, or obon, is a Japanese summer festival that involves line-type folk dancing to honor and pay respect to your deceased relatives. While it is derived from Buddhism and my immediate family is not Buddhist, I always saw it as a cultural activity we took part in. In Seattle, lots of people join in on the dances and it is now a Seafair event.


Little K

Little K

A few weeks prior to Bon Odori, I’d always tag along with my mom and her friends to bon practice, where the buddhist church leaders would teach church members and frequent Bon Odori goers the new dance of the year and refresh us on the moves from the old dances. It never seemed like a chore, I always had fun. We’d see familiar faces. (Can you spot my mom in this Seattle Times video on Bon Odori?)

One year — I was probably in middle school — we were at home getting ready for Bon Odori, and my mom realized she did not have a yukata for me. Every Bon Odori we would wear our yukatas (summer kimonos), it was just tradition. I guess mine at the time had gotten too small for me so she had given it away to a cousin and forgot to buy me a new one.

While wearing a yukata isn’t the most comfortable of clothing, it was always fun to dress up in one for one day in the year. If it’s really sunny, you get really hot. If you have to go to the bathroom, it’s kind of a big ordeal because you’re essentially wrapped up in cloth like a burrito.

I pouted and probably cried a little (aw, tweenage angst!) I wore a T-shirt and shorts and my mom also wore “regular clothes” as well. We danced all the dances and still had a good night, as always.


Middle school chubby/awkward phase of life

Chubby/awkward phase of life

As I’ve gotten older, and summers have gotten busier with weddings to attend or friends visiting from out of town, or just other fun stuff, I make my best effort to block off that weekend in mid-July to go to Bon Odori with my mom and her friends. A few years ago I missed it because I went to an out-of-state ultimate Frisbee tournament. While that summer was full of fun adventures, it didn’t feel complete without going to obon.

But it’s not just the action of going to Bon Odori and celebrating summer and our ancestors with the community that draws me in. It’s going with my mom.

Last year my mom unexpectedly had to go to Japan to take care of my grandma for a majority of the summer and was gone for obon. I didn’t go to any of the practices. My dad and I sort of talked about “Oh, Bon Odori is coming up this weekend …” but we never went. Because, why would we go without mom? It wouldn’t feel right.


Cheesy grin-time!

Cheesy grin-time!

Recently I was asked what I like about Bon Odori.

When you’re doing the same dance moves you did as a child toddling around, there’s a sense of nostalgia. When one of my favorite songs come on, I immediately smile.

But, also, Bon Odori is the one thing I do that is “Japanese” and that my mom and I can do together.

I’m a runner. She does Pilates and tennis. I like attending sporting events. She prefers to watch them at home. (Yes, she has fallen asleep at a baseball game before.) She gardens. I hate pulling weeds.

None of our own hobbies or activities have really aligned — OK, OK, we both love traveling but it’s not like we can just take extended globe-trotting trips all the time.


Me and mom

Bon Odori, July 2014

But, Japanese folk dancing together has always been one we can share.


Running to Christmas

Let’s be honest, it’s not as dazzling and magical as it was when I was 6 years old.

But, it’s a part of my childhood.

That’s why I ran to see those specific houses all lit up with the candy-cane decorations adorning the lawns. It’s Candy Cane Lane. It was in the low 30s last night but I didn’t really care. I was going to go take a visit to a piece of my youth.



Maybe that’s why people enjoy the holidays so much. It brings them back to a time that can only be recreated with (now) LED lights  and a spinning carousel.