My love for Harry Potter is a quiet love.
I didn't go to midnight showings or dress up in robes, I've never written fan fiction about Severus and Lily. I don't own my own wand, I live 3 hours from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando but I haven't gone yet, I don't spend hours imagining what House I'd be 'sorted' into. But my love is a fierce one just the same.
I first came into contact with Harry Potter when in my 6th grade gifted English class, when my powerhouse-of-a-teacher Mrs. Woodell began to read the first book out loud to us. I can't remember why but we didn't make it through the first book (mean parents, perhaps, or time concerns)...but the damage had been done the same. Harry Potter fever swept through our classroom and a new crop of small bookish kids was swept into the "Harry Potter Generation."
That Christmas, I received the first three books in hardback and I read them all in a week...and then I was left feeling empty. Like, now what? What do I do? And where the heck was my acceptance letter to Hogwarts, darn it? I dreamed of going back, I dreamed of that magical mysterious world. The answer of course for me was to read them over again, all of them, multiple times while I waited for Goblet of Fire to come out. This would be a cycle of feelings I would grow intimately familiar with over the next seven years.
I can remember vividly what it felt like to get each book into my hands for the first time. To feel the book jacket, and absorb the artwork until I had memorized it. To note each new color scheme for the binding, and to smell the pages of the new adventure. I can remember exactly where I was when I read each book for the first time, I can remember exactly how I felt when I closed each book after finishing it for the first time. It mystifies me that even the memory of these moment gets me excited, and a little misty. These books enraptured me in a way that few other things have, and turned my imagination inside out.
I am writing about this now, of course, because of the release of the last movie into theaters. Even though, from the very beginning of the movie franchise, I was skeptical and at times upset by details missed and substories truncated, I have fallen in love with the movies along with every one else. I entertained the thought of attending the midnight premier, only because I won tickets to the sneak preview of the first movie when I was in 8th grade...and it would have been a nice way to finish out the series. I didn't go to the midnight premier, but I did make it on Sunday night of the opening weekend...and oh gosh. I decided not to reread the books or rewatch any of the movies just so I could let the last installment sink its way into my brain unadulterated by expectations. I ended up sobbing my way through the movie...heh. I am a crier by nature and the way that some of the scenes were so beautifully handled just obliterated me into a crying mushy-mush.
After we left the theater, I was in a daze. In not re-reading or re-watching, I hadn't prepared myself to be plunged back into my favorite universe, just to be ripped right back out. I had forgotten just how many memory-ties I have associated with the Harry Potter franchise, and I didn't realize that they would all come flying back into my brain, begging me to remember. I have so many important parts of my coming-of-age that involve a thick book about wizards tucked under my arm...I don't think I fully understood just how many hours of my summers I spent deep inside that universe.
When Corey and I got home, I ended up asking him to hold me and then dissolving into tears again. I couldn't quite understand why I was so upset, until I realized that Hogwarts and the Harry Potter universe is as real a memory for me as another memory I have. My family moved around a LOT when I was young, and I don't have the privilege of going back to my childhood house, or my teenage years house, or even the house where I was post-high school. Those places exist only in my memories now. I keep all of those memories locked away for the most part, all of middle school and high school, and in the same room are the memories of my imagination. In unlocking the door, I couldn't just let Harry Potter out. I let out listening to Radiohead at 2am when I was finishing the 6th book as a sophomore in high school. I let out reading the 4th book in the car with my grandparents when they took us on vacation so my dad could move into a new apartment. I let out finally being grown up enough to take myself to the midnight release of the 7th book, and then covertly reading it at work the next day. I let out the feelings of angst and confusion that I felt as a teenager, the emotions that Harry Potter experienced the same time I did. I let out the feelings that I didn't belong anywhere, and, when it comes to my family, that I still don't have a 'home' to belong to.
Saying goodbye to Harry Potter, and tucking him and his pals back into that locked up room, feels like saying goodbye to being 16 all over again. Even though I put the memories back on their shelves, I will never ever forget what it felt like to be that age and to read these books. I will read them to my children when they get old enough, and hopefully watch them fall into the magic just as deeply and as beautifully as I did. Thank you, Harry Potter, for growing up with me, and thank you for accompanying me through lonely summers and confused teenage years.