Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Decade of Magic: Harry's Impact on My Life

If you've even paid a second of attention to the news/social media/etc over the past few weeks months, you know that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is to be released in theaters on July 15th (which also happens to be my 20th birthday). While I am so excited for the epic conclusion, I also find it to be a little bittersweet. It feels as though a chapter of my life is closing. This is a reflection on how the series impacted me, one of the millions to grow up with Harry.

I remember the day I received the very first book. Ninth birthday. July 15, 2000. Exactly eleven years before the final movie wraps everything up. Back then, there were no movies. The books had only very recently "took off" on this side of the Pond (they started in Britain, if you didn't know). My cousin who gave the book to me had started reading it a few weeks earlier. He swore I would love it. I was skeptical. Ever the girly girl, I took one look at the cover and deemed it a "boy book". But I gave it a chance. My mom and I started reading it together, a chapter each night before bed. And you know what, I fell in love. I was hooked after just one page. The characters and plot captivated me. I loved using my imagination to picture what that great castle looked like, how Quidditch looked from Harry's point of view, mean old actually nice Snape... I was hooked. I got the second story (Chamber of Secrets) shortly after. To this day it remains one of my favorites in the series. I loved everything about it.

Then, the movies came out. I remember how excited I was because Hagrid was exactly as I had pictured him. I felt silly when I realized how many of the pronunciations I had gotten wrong (Quidditch with a K, anyone?). Mostly, though, I was blown away by the performances of Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, who, at the time, were my age. Well, they're still my age, actually. But that's besides the point. I wanted so much to be in their shoes. To fight through the third floor corridor past three headed dogs and the like. I wanted to be in that world.

My eleventh birthday came and went. I checked the mail daily, wishing, hoping and praying for my Hogwarts acceptance letter. Deep down inside, I knew that it was all fiction, but I just couldn't admit that to myself. Everything was described in such rich detail, there was just no way it could all be "made up". It had to be real, it just had to.

I never did get that letter. But I got as close to the magical world as I could with toys and other memorabilia. I had a Hermione doll, which later received a very butchered haircut, as did all of my Barbies. I had a plastic Goblin figurine, complete with goo to pour over his head. I had two board games and a cooking set. But my most favorite of all was my castle. My Hogwarts Castle. This castle had it all. Sights, sounds, music. Plus, a "magic" element that made Harry float through the corridors effortlessly. Ok, maybe he got stuck once. Or twice. I remember sitting for hours on end, acting out my favorite scenes with the tiny figures. I figured that was as close as I was going to get to the "real thing", so I took advantage of it.

As I have grown up, so have the characters. There is much more teen romance/angst in the later novels than the earlier ones. As I became older, I found that I was able to relate to the characters more so than ever before. I remember many a dance where I was scrambling and panicking at the last minute because I still didn't have a date, much like Harry and Ron in the Goblet of Fire (book 4). I also remember a particularly horrible (ok, it was horrible at the time) week during my sophomore year when it seemed like literally the entire school was against me, and all because of a silly (not true) rumor. Harry went through that too. More than once. Like the time when everyone thought he was attacking his classmates just because he can talk to snakes. I know this sounds cliche, but the little subplots like that truly did make me feel less alone.

Feeling less alone is only one of the positive effects that Harry has had on me. I've also noticed that he has a knack for bring people together, despite Hagrid sized differences. When you see literally thousands of people standing in a line that wraps in and out of every isle of Barnes and Noble, shouting Alohamora to magically "open" the crate containing the newly published books at midnight, you get this crazy sense of unity. A sense of togetherness. For just a few minutes, everyone puts their differences aside to focus on one big common interest. And in this day in age, that's worth more than 1,000 words.

Harry has, over the years, been an escape for me. A chance to get away. This past weekend wasn't easy. I might blog about it at a later time. Maybe. In the midst of being sad, I went to my futon and curled up with Goblet of Fire. And everything melted away. I was away from reality for awhile, in a world that is completely make believe. I was able to put aside the hurt and sadness, even if only for a few hours. These stories have been an escape for me and thousands of others. For that, I am grateful.

As I look back on the past decade (HALF of my life--wow!), nothing but wonderful memories fill my mind. I hope that one day, I can share Harry's story with my own children, and if they're anything like their mama, they'll fall in love after just one page. Will J.K. Rowling publish any more books? For now, she says "never say never". Even if Harry's epic saga doesn't continue, I think that there is one big thing that we can all learn from his seven part story. Even when everyone says you can't, never stop believing in the impossible.

"All was well".

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