I can't recall exactly when I read The Hobbit and then The Lord of the Rings but it would have been around 12 or 13 years old. I loved them but had no idea the prominence they would later go on to have in my life. I would periodically return every few years to revisit them, as one of the closet Tolkien lovers in a world that didn't really know it even existed.
Then, when my eldest daughter was a reluctant and struggling reader aged about 15, she needed to read a book of her own choice for school and I encouraged her to read The Hobbit. That magic led her to not only read The Lord of the Rings but also The Silmarillion (which had defeated me as an avid reader!) and converted her to a compulsive reader and lover of the Fantasy genre.
Not long after, word began to spread that Peter Jackson was making a movie of LOTR - no ... three movies!! And the anticipation and hope began. But what if he ruined it? Around this time, two kittens joined our family and were named Merry and Frodo (Merry being a female cat gained a male character's name, as females in Tolkien's works tend to have names too grand for a domestic cat!).
The first movie was released on Boxing Day 2001 - and we joined to queue for tickets. And it was perfect! Melissa and I released our jointly-held breaths as the vision in our heads was matched by that of Peter Jackson. And love of the movie raanked alongside love of the books.
Kieran was just ten and also struggled with reading. However, when we added the audio CD full BBC production of LOTR to our collection, he patiently listened to the whole 13 hours virtually uninterrupted! He was also immersed in Middle Earth. Kaitlyn and Rod tried to be as enthusiastic but it was we three who shared the passion.
I remember the Christmas we surprised Kieran with the full Fellowship of figures - a friend working for a toy store chain was able to get them with her staff discount. Except for one - Strider - who was stuck on a wharf and not delivered in time. Also on his gift list was a Hobbit cloak of his own, sewn in secret by me in the cosy space of our ensuite bathroom! This was packaged in a silver box, with a letter from Gandalf advising the Fellowship were in hiding within our lounge room to be found - apart from Strider, who would join them at a later date.
But I wasn't the only one sewing costumes. Melissa took her rudimentary sewing skills and taught herself how to draft patterns and recreate costumes from the movies. And that introduced her to the world of cos-play. And conventions.
Which led to her volunteering at the LOTR exhibition in Sydney, where she even managed to be featured in a newspaper article!
Which led to a family roadtrip so we could all see the exhibition!
And then more conventions and meeting with stars of the movies.
So, by the time she was celebrating her 21st birthday, Melissa was also preparing to hop over to New Zealand, so she could visit the movie locations! Her birthday yielded so more treasures for her growing collection.
In the end, she spent two years in NZ!
Sadly, the movies came to an end and the family consoled ourselves with Harry Potter instead each Boxing Day. And then, rumours began that Peter Jackson was making The Hobbit! And that turned into a trilogy as well! By now, Kieran was also into cosplay and brother and sister attend conventions together! In 2013, they easily won tickets to see one of the movies accompanied by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, in an Instagram competition on ABC radio.
And now, today we saw the final installment of The Hobbit. And we are left with just our memories, a large cache of merchandise and everything on DVD - except we now wait for the release of this third movie and, no doubt, the boxed set of three!
Sadly, little Merry didn't quite make it to the end of the journey, going to the east just a couple of weeks ago. Frodo is his annoying self and belies his fifteen years of age. Melissa and Kieran are about to turn 31 and 24. But offer them their swords and cloaks and they will oblige you a little sword play and are sure to indoctrinate Charlie into the fold as soon as possible :)
Thanks to J.R.R. Tolkien and Peter Jackson for your legacies.