What is your dearest ambition?


Calling through the door, waiting for the password

And sure enough, a moment later there was a knock on the back door. Mrs. Weasley jumped up and hurried to it; with one hand on the doorknob and her face pressed up against the wood she called softly, “Arthur, is that you?”

“Yes,” came Mr. Weasley’s voice. “But I would say that even if I were a Death Eater, dear. Ask the question!”

“Oh, honestly…”


“All right, all right… What is your dearest ambition?

“To find out how airplanes stay up.”

Mrs. Weasley nodded and turned the doorknob, but apparently Mr. Weasley was holding tight to it on the other side, because the door remained firmly shut.

“Molly! I’ve got to ask you your question first!”

“Arthur, really, this is just silly…”

“What do you like me to call you when we’re alone together?”

Even by the dim light of the lantern Harry could tell that Mrs. Weasley had turned bright red; he himself felt suddenly warm around the ears and neck, and hastily gulped soup, clattering his spoon as loudly as he could against the bowl.

“Mollywobbles,” whispered a mortified Mrs. Weasley into the crack at the edge of the door.

“Correct,” said Mrs. Weasley. “Now you can let me in.”

by J. K. Rowling (31 July 1965 – )
from Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (16 July 2005) Chapter 5

What’s Your Password?

When I was a kid, I learned about passwords from the story “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.” I remember asking my brother to say “Open Sesame” before letting him pass through doorways. No scary fantasy figures were involved: the password thing was a cool concept to me, and that was enough. To ensure that my brother would play along, I acquiesced to the presence of secret treasures. Secret treasures do have a certain appeal.

After seeing Disney’s “Mary Poppins,” my password became “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” because it was the biggest and most exotic-sounding thing I could manage. My brother, always the purist, was not impressed. How did this “Mary Poppins” song get to be a password for secret exotic places? Was there no order to the world?

As an adult, the passwords I use are arcane and hard to guess, but the passwords I feel are simple and sentimental: the sweetheart who likes to repeat my name, the child who needed a real lunch but offered to share crackers because that was what she had, the dying aunt who confessed that she would have liked to go to Switzerland one day. They unlock me.

Passwords open doors to places that are closed or hidden. I write my name on paperwork and think of the one who repeated it, I see a food bank bin and know that generosity the size of one can of tuna can equal satisfaction for someone’s child, or I inwardly raise my Swiss cheese sandwich in silent salute of dreams both lived and wished. It’s like spontaneous background music, until someone asks, “What’s the password?” Then, I need to be more specific.

What would you like to find behind your door?

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