As I’m sure you might be aware, the first part of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows movie is released today, and unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve most likely seen the trailer. Yes it’s filled with danger and intrigue and countless other things I’m obscenely excited about, but one thing in particular stood out to me, and it was but a brief blurb as the HP logo flies:
“The motion picture event of a generation”
That statement floored me in a way it most likely wasn’t intended to- this phenomenon between the books and the movie, iis the cultural event of an entire generation. It’s something most of us can share amongst our friends, debating the various twists and turns, the characters, and the ongoing ramifications of the goings on within the world of Harry Potter. No matter where I go or who I meet, I can always run into a Harry Potter lover. It is this unifying factor that we will remember vividly of our childhood, both for the love of the books themselves and the camaraderie we shared with our peers.
For that reason, today, in the midst of our children’s book week, we’re paying homage to the Harry Potter series. Each of us have our own memories of where we were when we read it, what it meant to us, and the events wrapped up in them that we will cherish and one day pass onto our own children.
So on the day that is the beginning of the end of our generational phenomenon, we salute Harry Potter.
I was a late bloomer into the world of Harry Potter, waiting all the way until 1999 to read them. I had initially scoffed at them as being little kid books and ignored them entirely. I mean I was thirteen! Who reads kids books at thirteen? But the kids I was babysitting demanded I read The Sorcerer’s Stone to them before bed, and despite being only halfway through the book and normally reading a chapter a night, I read the rest of it to them. And I haven’t looked back since. I tore through Chamber of Secrets and the Prisoner of Azkaban and felt my whole world shift.
I had met my new best friends. Bookworm-know-it-all-worry-wart Hermione reminded me of my nerdy over-prepared self; the tight knit ginger Weasleys were the best look at the intricacies and dramas of a big family and they made redheads cool again. And Harry, how do you describe Harry? His bravery and loyalty, his rash and impetuous nature, the fact that he’s such a flawed hero but I want to cry over the life he’s lived? The imperfections and the reality of these characters made them my friends for life. Every year I reread Harry Potter and I feel like my old friends have come for a visit. And every year I read them with a different perspective. Rereading the earlier ones at an older age I feel like their big sister, and I want to protect them from everything I know is coming. As they get older I want to stand by them and fight too. Irrational, but true.
After Azkaban I was stuck in the waiting game. That interminable period before The Goblet of Fire finally came out. I remember quite clearly having a family pool party to attend and taking it with me, standing in the pool with the book propped up on the ledge reading it. What was even better was that my eight year old sister was right there beside me, devouring the book too. Little did we know at the time that we were spoiled. We’d barely waited a year for the next book and we had a never ending three year wait ahead of us for The Order of the Phoenix. By that time I was a senior in high school and my sister was ten and we were in an epic battle to the death to be the first to finish.
Now a 17 year old verses a 10 year old doesn’t seem like much of a challenge, but we’re both very fast readers, and it became a tradition. Fortunately I won every time, but never by more than a 100 pages. We sat downstairs on the couch with our feet meeting in the middle barely looking up from our books to eat or drink. It was a sacred rule that you don’t get up until Harry Potter is over (bathroom breaks slowed your reading lead). As I would get farther and farther ahead, I’d laugh at some scenes and she’d demand to know what was so funny. When she’d gasp, I’d demand she tell me where she was and we could discuss it while I gloated about knowing what came next. It was both a rivalry and an intense bonding. That night, lying in bed and still reading at 2 am, long after the ten year old was sent to bed, I came to the part where Sirius dies. To this day there is still a tear blotch on that page.
The Half Blood Prince debut was a disaster of epic proportions. For the first time we pre-ordered on Amazon and waited interminably for it to be delivered…and it didn’t arrive until SIX O’CLOCK! And let me tell you, hell hath no fury like a girl without her Harry Potter book. My mom and sister and I stayed up all night finishing the book, and when Dumbledore died, and I found out well before they did, I quickly shut the book, stood up and got in the shower to cry my ever-loving eyes out. I couldn’t spoil it for them, but I could tell as each of us finished by the sounds of fury and tears. That death rocked me to the core, and even more than Sirius’ death told me Rowling meant business. The best people you know can die, even those you never thought could. And when the greatest source of power and wisdom dies, you know the next book will essentially be, “Abandon all Hope, all ye who enter.”
Finally there was the Deathly Hallows and the first one I read large portions of on my own. There was something strangely personal about coming to the end and saying goodbye. There were the tears over the deaths, but more it reminded me of the feeling I should have had at my high school and college graduations. This was the end of my childhood and the end of a generation long friendship. From then on out I would no longer be making new memories with my friends but flipping through books to relive old ones. Ron and I were petulant jerks together. Hermione and I were self-righteous know-it-alls. Harry and I felt that devastating feeling of the entire world upon our shoulders. We’d grown up together and were now being split up.
It didn’t matter if they were characters because outside of the wizarding world what they went through and how they imperfectly handled it taught me what it means to stand up and do the right thing, and whether it be fiction or reality, bad things happen to good people. The world is not all things rosy and wholesome and J.K. Rowling addressed that and took these “kids books” farther than anyone ever thought she would- because that’s what happens in the real world. It was a juxtaposition of the fantastic and the cold hard reality that gripped me so deeply and so hard and will never let go. I can promise that I will be reading and sharing these with my children one day in the hopes that they too will find friendship and family within them, that it will teach them to be good people, and that no matter what there is good in the world, and it is worth doing any and everything you can to preserve it. And more than anything I hope they feel the camaraderie with their peers as they stay up late on countless nights, in varying towns, with a myriad of people sharing their love of Harry Potter.
I first read Harry Potter over a Thanksgiving break my sophomore year of high school. More precisely, I read the first book Thanksgiving Day. My mom had bought them for me, and I’d written them off as kiddie books. But next thing I knew I was literally hiding under the dining room table so I could read uninterrupted.
That day changed my life.
There aren’t the right words to describe what Harry potter has meant to me. I’ve been thinking about this for days and I just can’t express how deep my love of these books run…how absolutely integral they are to me.
Everything I ever needed to know about life I learned from Harry Potter. How to be a friend. What makes up a family. How to be brave. How loving someone doesn’t have to be rational. These books, more than anything else, made me who I am today. The people I’m friends with, the interests I’ve cultivated, the kind of person I am right this very second all stems from these seven books. Sometimes it feels weird to admit that to myself, but it’s true.
I went to a fan convention (the first ever) and had one of the best weekends of my life. I found an online community that supported me at a time when it seemed like none of the people in my real life got me. I found in my mother a kindred sprit at a time when most people want to push their parents off a cliff. I went to law school, and it was the dumbest thing I ever did. I was miserable and the thought of being a lawyer gave me the heebie jeebies. Harry got me through that. And I learned things about myself that I don’t think I ever would have gotten to without Harry.
Nothing in my life so far – well, no, ok maybe getting married – but pretty much nothing else has ever inspired in me the kind of anticipation I’d feel about Harry. I’d compulsively re-read the books. God. I can’t even begin to count how many times I’ve read them all. There was a period where I’d spend a week every month or so re-reading. And they never got old. Even now, when I’m feeling down or lost, I pull the well-loved paperbacks from my shelves and they get me through.
I’m almost twenty-seven years old now, and these books have been with me for over ten years. They mean more to me now than they did the first day I read them, and they continue to mean more with every passing day. More than anything else, Harry has always been someone I can count on. It’s creepy that he seems so real to me – that I talk about him like a person instead of a character – but that’s what he’s always been. I know Harry will always be there for me in a way no other fictional character could ever dream of trying to be. And I will be grateful for the rest of my life that J.K. Rowling wrote him into it.
I had to work the day Deathly Hallows was released. Now, of course, my friends and I dressed up and went to a midnight release party but I knew I couldn’t finish by 9am the next morning. So, I switch shifts with someone so I wouldn’t be working until 4pm. I was pretty sure I could do that. I knew that if I was forced to work in the middle of Deathly Hallows, I would be the most terrible grump ever and all of my coworkers would hate me.
So, there I am, at 3:30pm on July 21st, waiting for a bus to take me to work. I was deep in the midst of the final battle. I knew my time was limited and there were there LOUD people sharing the bench with me. They just would not be quiet. Plus they were talking about Harry Potter so I eavesdropped. Turns they were on their way home from the bookstore. In the bag they were holding was their copy of Deathly Hallows. So, there they sat, eager and excited to start the book, and there I sat, just coming up to the epilogue. And then one of them pointed at me and my progress through the book. We had a very short exchange.
The man said, “Is it good?”
I nodded at them, and went back to my book.
I don’t know who these people are (although it would be really, really cool if they were reading this. Were you waiting for the 156 from Braid Station on July 21st, 2007? No?) and I never saw them again, but I will never, ever forget them or this moment we had together.
The day the sixth book came out, I was living in a small town in the middle of nowhere so no midnight release for me, it was pouring rain and there was a HUGE celebration happening. The town had this week long…thing that culminated that day with music and fireworks and…who knows what. I stayed in, had a big cup of hot chocolate and read my book. Half Blood Prince has been my favourite of the books since it came out and that was a perfect way to read it. No interruptions, everyone I knew was at the celebrations, and fireworks going off in the background.
The fifth book was my first midnight release party. I went with two friends who weren’t even there for the book. They just came with me because I demanded we go. They went and got cool drinks while I melted from the heat waiting in line and talking to the people around me about how long we’d had to wait. Once the line was moving everything went so fast and after three bloody years of waiting I had my book. My friends forced my presence on them the next day, I don’t know why. I didn’t speak to them, or watch the movie they put on. I read my book and tried to hide my tears when Sirius died.
The fourth book came out while I was on a family vacation. Luckily my mother and cousin loved the books as well, and understood when I spent that entire day at the beach just sitting on my towel. Not even glancing at the beautiful ocean in front of me, or talking to the family that I didn’t see that often. This was the first book I’d had to wait for and I wasn’t going to wait any longer than necessary.
I don’t remember how I first heard about the books. I know I was thirteen and I needed to read them. But we couldn’t find them anywhere. They weren’t in the bookstore. This boggles my mind now. We eventually found them in Costco but my mother wouldn’t buy all three at once. They weren’t a huge phenomenon at the time and she wasn’t sure if I would like them. So, when I’d finished Philosopher’s Stone (NOT Sorcerer’s Stone…what the heck is a sorcerer’s stone??? I’m am so glad my county’s publisher didn’t think the books needed to dumbed down for children) by morning and begging my mother for the next two…well, it wasn’t long before we went back to Costco and got them. And then I convinced my mother to read them. And then my sister. And then I was adamant that we send my cousin a copy for Christmas.
That really is the crux of why these books mean so much to me and to everyone. They weren’t something you did by yourself, alone in a room. They were a shared experience. If you didn’t know anyone who’d read them, you forced your copy on them and told them to read. These books demanded to be discussed and analyzed and argued about. The world wasn’t just in the books, it was in our minds and hearts and culture and together we all brought it to life.
There’s that great scene in Philosopher’s Stone where Hagrid taps the right brick and the wall folds back to reveal Diagon Alley. It’s creates the desire in us the first sent us knocking on the back of our wardrobes. The idea that magic is there, it is real, it is a part of us, we just have to find the right brick.
It’s impossible to describe how the Harry Potter books have impacted my life because I feel like they’ve always been there. They’re so intertwined with everything else I’ve done that to separate them would be like killing part of my soul. (I’m completely serious. They’re a part of my soul.)
I was kind of like Katie in my perception of the first three books. They were for little kids and I was much too mature (at the advanced age of 13) and too involved in my newfound love for “romance” books to bother with them. My little brother started reading them first and loved them so much that my mother read them. I was shocked how much my mom liked them. She was an adult! Why was she reading little kid books? So I sucked it up and read theSorcerer’s Stone. The day after that was the Chamber of Secrets and the day after that I read the Prisoner of Azkaban.
That was it, I was hooked. I didn’t care there was no kissing or declarations of love in the first three books. These were kids my age doing extraordinary things and they got to do magic. I wanted to be a witch like Hermione and go to school at Hogwarts, darn it! And I couldn’t believe I had to wait for the fourth book! I’m a very impatient person, so this waiting game between books quickly got old.
The Goblet of Fire was a permanent fixture by my side when it came out. My mom went to Wal-Mart at midnight and bought three copies (one for her, one for me, and one for my brother). The house was very quiet the next couple of days, as you can imagine. I read that book every chance I got, including at school, which got me into a little trouble because arguing that GoF was more important than Physics didn’t go over very well. (Why do I need to learn Physics? I’ll just use magic for everything. Gosh!)
Then the first movie came out and (haha!) my brother was grounded for some reason so my mom and I went to see it. This became a tradition with us until the fifth movie when I started going to the midnight releases with friends.
Order of the Phoenix came out the summer after I graduated from high school and I accompanied my mom to Wal-Mart (oh, I love Wal-Mart and their no-nonsense midnight releases) to buy two copies now. (My brother had decided he was too cool to read HP since he’d reached that advanced age of 13.) And oh, how I cried and sobbed at the end. Sirius! I couldn’t believe he was gone. My mom and I lamented his tragic end and how Harry was wronged after just getting to know his godfather.
The third movie came out and my how those three little kids had grown. Then finally (FINALLY) the Half-Blood Prince came out. I went with a friend to a midnight release party to get this book and then we went back to my apartment and read all night/morning. More sobbing. More lamenting about how Harry was wronged. Things were not looking good for him.
This is around the time I discovered fanfiction. (Roswell fanfic was my first, but HP fanfic will be forever.) I stumbled upon a random person’s on-going Hermione and Draco story. It was very sweet, set during GoF. At first, I was shocked (SHOCKED, I tell you) that someone would put Hermione and Draco together. Didn’t they know Draco was one of the bad guys? But after reading some of it, I quickly changed my tune. I blame that random blog somewhere on Xanga for the hours and hours of time I’ve lost since reading any and all HP fanfic I could find. People I thought were meant-to-be from the books were soon paired with their real-soul-mate. (I’m a firm Hermione and Snape shipper, aka Snermione.)
I had no idea what to expect with Deathly Hallows. I knew J.K. Rowling meant srs bns after Dumbledore’s death. I just didn’t want the core three to die. Anyone else was okay, just not those three. Reading the epilogue was like closing a chapter on my life.
And now the Harry Potter chapter of my life is almost done. From the first book to the last movie release, Harry Potter will have been with me for thirteen years. That’s half of my life. Half. I have no idea what I’ll do when it’s finally over. It’ll be a new era, one I do not want to face. These books and the characters are a part of me. Hermione comforted me when other kids teased me for reading so much. Ron and his family joked with me when I did something silly or stupid. Harry stood up for me when no one else would. I love them. They’re a large reason why I am who I am today. And should I ever have kids, I will definitely be their enabler in all things Harry Potter.
If you managed to stick with us until the end of this very long ode, please comment and join us in sharing your favorite Harry Potter memories today.