I fondly recall my introduction to Harry Potter. It was a few days before I was going to sleep away camp for the first (and only) time. I was at the pool club which at that time was the place to be. I was hanging out with my best friend (who remains such) Laura. Her mom, my mom, and some other kids moms were sitting at a table under an umbrella, chatting about whatever it is they chatted about. Laura’s younger sister, Alex, was reading one of the first 3 Harry Potters (I believe all three were released at once in the US right before they exploded). It was the summer after 6th grade. I asked Alex what she was reading, and thus my love affair with Harry began. After Alex’s recommendation, and before I left for camp, my mom took me to Borders and bought me the first Harry Potter book; Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. She wouldn’t buy me all three at once, because she didn’t want to buy them unless I liked them, after all they were expensive hardcovers and I was a fickle eleven year old.
Now, anyone whose been to sleep away camp, knows that there’s not much time for reading. You’re entirely too busy hiking, horseback riding , swimming in murky lakes, crafting up ugly beautiful creations, and barely eating nasty camp kitchen food. Also, your counselors forbid you from carrying around your 5 pound Harry Potter book. These same counselors also forced you to put your junk food stash into the plastic bag in the cabin, to avoid critter visits, but really just force you to share your Oreo’s with the group and get something lame like sun chips in return. Bug Juice this was NOT.
Anyway, despite these obstacles, I snuck in enough reading time to fall head-over-heals in love with Harry. I’d crawl into my sleeping bag with the book and my flashlight, until my head was covered, so everyone would think I was asleep, and I’d read until my eyes would begin to shut on their own. Some parts were pretty scary to 11 year-old-me, and hearing owls hooting in the distance was eerily appropriate. It was also incredibly difficult to wake up at 7 every morning having read long into the night. It’s a good thing, the majority of my time was spent on a horse’s back instead doing something athletic like play soccer. Upon my return from camp, I immediately coerced my mom into taking me to Borders and buying me the subsequent two books. My relationship with Harry deepened.
I was always hungry for more Harry. I went to every midnight book release party after those first three books. I formed friendships with people based on our mutual love of Harry. My best friend in high school and I went to those midnight parties together and we’d return to a sleepover during which I read as much as I could, again until I couldn’t hold my eyes open. These were magical experiences (no pun intended). I always enjoyed seeing what other people dressed up as but I never dressed up myself, at least not wholeheartedly. I might of worn my hair crazily frizzy curly to a midnight movie to honor Hermione. At another midnight movie, I expertly sported gold and maroon Gryffindor colors to see who’d notice. And then again, I recall an owl necklace I chose to wear to a book release as an ode to Hedwig.
In college, the majority of my friends were also Harry Potter fans. It was during the summer after my sophomore year, that I went to the midnight release of the final installation, with some good friends. The three of us returned to the common area of some one’s dorm room, and sat in a circle and read. We split up shortly after my one friend gasped (presumably at Hedwig and then Mad Eye Moody’s deaths) because my other friend couldn’t take the tension. I read and read and read that book. I went to work the next day, and read on the T (and at work when no one was looking). I read every chance I could the next day (Saturday) during a visit from my parents. That night, less than 48 hours after the release of the last book, I knew how the Harry Potter series ended. It was bittersweet. I know at what point most people wanted to give up but didn’t. I know which chapters I read through blurry, tearful, eyes. I know which paragraphs rendered me unable to breath for fear, suspense, pain, or happiness. And I know how significant Harry has been throughout my life.
Harry Potter became a communal experience at the midnight book releases and movie premieres. I might not have had the courage to dress in full costume (It definitely takes a major amount of self-confidence and courage to wear full Harry Potter garb in public) but I understood, related to, and even admired people who did it. Sometimes, I wished I was that cool or had that much confidence. But despite their willingness to dress up and my refusal to do so, we were part of the same great leagues of HP fanatics. We all read the same pages, sometimes dozens of times,we all adored Harry and despised Voldemort, and we all knew Ron and Hermione would end up together. The beauty of Harry Potter was in the fact that people from all different walks of life, related to some part of Harry’s story, and therefore related to each other. In a small, but definitely significant way Harry Potter has brought millions of people together, and that is wonderful.
On Friday, or Thursday at midnight, the final installment of the Harry Potter movies will be released. Millions of fans will flock to theaters anxious to see this epic story play out on the big screen. For whatever reason, probably some subliminal need to lengthen the remainder of time I had with Harry, I waited until yesterday to buy tickets for the midnight show despite having the date marked on my calendar months in advance. Not surprisingly, every theater within a 1/2 hour ride of my house, is sold out of tickets. What is a fan to do? I’ve decided that I can wait the extra 18- 30 hours to see it. I didn’t see the last one at midnight because my dad backed out of seeing it with me at the last minute (he had some silly reason like not being able to stay awake passed 10).
I’ve come to quiet terms with my not seeing this the last midnight show. It still makes me quite sad, but it’s okay because by not seeing it as soon as it’s released, I’m able to lengthen what will be a bitter-sweet moment. I grew up with Harry Potter and with the impending last time I’ll see a new Harry Potter movie, I can’t help but feel like I’m about lose part of my childhood. I know the voice of this entire post will be interpreted as melodramatic to some people reading it and perhaps I am letting this affect me more than I should but I can’t help it.
Harry Potter deepened my appreciation for books and reading. He helped me make friends when I was awkward and shy. He was there to comfort me when a lot of non-Harry fan-former-friends decided they didn’t want to be friends with me. I would escape into his world whenever I needed to cheer up. For a lot people, Harry, like he did in his wizarding world, became a light in dark times. I am a member of the only generation who got to be with Harry from the beginning to the end. While I do think that many of us will one day read these books to and share the movies with our children, I don’t think it could ever be the same for them as it was for us. We’ve been here for all the hoopla and media attention, all the midnight showings and book releases, and all the wonderful craziness of being a fan. No other generation will have that.
Harry started the journey in a Broom Closet under the stairs, and I joined him from my sleeping bag at summer camp; I am so thankful I did. It’s been wonderful and I’m not ready for it to end. I’ll wait a little extra time to say good-bye, and see the movie on Friday or even Saturday because one thing I also learned from Harry is patience.