Thursday, July 14, 2011

Harry Potter, The Boy Who Lived (and helped me live)

I grew up loving to read, it was how I preferred to spend a lot of my free time. I liked it more than TV, and growing in in south Mississippi I much preferred it to playing in the heat of the outdoors. Reading developed into a love for writing over the years, but it was something I never really took seriously. I wrote a lot of short stories and essays, but never really showed anyone or talked about it.

Books enveloped me, drew me in. They made me cry. They made me laugh. They were my friends when others weren't. Books were my lifeline, an escape from everyday life in the rural countryside. They showed me the world, both literally and figuratively.

In my late high school years I kind of fell out of love with reading. I still read, sure, but it was mostly for school assignments. And let's face it, Of Mice and Men and The Scarlett Letter aren't really the types of book a teenage girl wants to read. (Not that I didn't enjoy them or think they weren't beneficial.) I grew to think that all "grown up books" were hopelessly depressing and forlorn. I found myself refusing to read any adult literature I didn't have to, but at the time there weren't many books out there for me. Books were expensive so I couldn't buy many on my own, and our town library was pretty small. The only books they had for kids/young adults were Baby Sitter's Club, Goosebumps, and The Chronicles of Narnia, all of which I had checked out and read numerously. So when I say I fell out of love with reading, it wasn't for lack of trying, really, it was lack of proper reading material for someone my age.

I saw a few kids at school reading a series called Harry Potter. "Harry Potter?" I thought. "What kind of a stupid name for a book is that? Honestly anyone can publish a book these days." I refused to read the books (or later see the movies) on principle. They were a fad and nothing more. Itwould pass soon and I'd be for the better having not read them. I'd show everyone.

The summer before my freshman year of college I found my sister cuddled up on the couch with a book.

"What are you reading?" I asked in passing.
She held up a copy of Prisoner of Azkaban.
"Oh no, not you too." I groaned.
"These books are amazing! You have got to read them." Her eyes lit up in excitement.
I backed away, nervous. "Um. No I'm good, thanks."

The conversation went back and forth for a few days, I saw how engrossed she was in those stupid books. At the time I just didn't understand what was so special about them, but I think I was also jealous. Jealous that she had found something so amazing, so engrossing. Jealous that she had seen something so beautiful and wonderful. Jealous that she still had a love for reading, and I did not.

Our disagreement continued. "Read the first book, if you don't like it I'll pay you $20." she said to me one day. $20 was a lot of money for a broke soon-to-be college student (heck it's still a lot of money to me!), so I begrudgingly took her up on her offer. It was a short book, I could finish it in a day or two.

Read it in a day or two I did, but what I didn't expect was to get sucked in.

From the moment I first opened Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone all those years ago, I was hooked. From the first moment I saw Hagrid say, "Harry- you're a wizard." and Harry respond with, "I'm a what?" I knew I had found my love for reading once again. I was home.

I started college and continued reading the books, five were out at this point I think. I got the sixth book and went to my first midnight release party for the seventh, rereading the series multiple times in between. It took over a month for me to finish Deathly Hallows (and I'm a fast reader). I didn't want the series to end, I couldn't say goodbye to characters that meant to much to me, that brought me back to the person I was meant to be. That saved me.

I can remember exactly where I during all the major plot arcs of the series. I remember sitting in my living room reading Prisoner of Azkaban while my sister watched Goblet of Fire for the thousandth time. I cannot express to you my excitement, the buzz of adventure that filled my ears, when I figured out Sirius was Harry's godfather. Finally, Harry would have a father figure in his life. Someone he could trust and count on.

I remember laying in my bed, reading under the covers with a flashlight at well past 3:00 in the morning when Sirius died in Order of the Phoenix. I reread the passage countless times, tears so thick I could hardly see the page. My sister texted me from the next room to ask if I was okay because she could hear my muffled cries. She understood.

I remember being in the back of my father's filled-to-the-brim pickup truck in Dallas rush hour traffic, trying desperately to find our way to Austin to visit my husband (then fiance) and move my things out here when I read Chapter 34 of Deathly Hallows. Tears, hot and silent, flowed down my cheeks and hit the page as Harry walked into the woods with the ghostly figures of James, Lily, Sirius, and Lupin.

I know it sounds silly, but finishing that book was one of the hardest things I ever did in my life. I feel much the same today as I did that day four years ago. The final film comes out in just a few hours, and I'm a mix of emotions. I'm excited to see it on the big screen, but I'm sad. This is the last midnight showing I'll ever go to. The last time I'll get to dress up as a book character and not be seen as crazy. It's the end.

These characters showed me so much about love, about life, and about death. I never thought a work of fiction could impact and change my life the way this series has. I never thought a book could rekindle my love for the written word. I never thought a book would help me see my love for writing. How daft I was. How foolish.

I know it's not really the end, not for me and those like me. "It's real for us." As Snape once said to Lily. Harry and his friends will never be gone, not really. Like J.K. Rowling said just recently, "Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home." And I believe that.

So thank you, J.K. Rowling, for making such loveable, believable characters and for building one of the few magical worlds I'd trade for my own in a heartbeat. Thank you for helping me to find myself again. Thank you for your story, and for reminding me that we all have stories to tell, no matter how small we think they may be.

"You'll stay with me?" Harry asked.
"Until the very end." said James.


  1. Beautiful post. I'm tearing up just thinking about it all coming to an end.

  2. You made me cry again! Absolutely beautiful!!

  3. WOW! I got teary reading this! Harry Potter came out when I started having babies. Too busy, I didn't read the entire series until last year. (I kick myself for not reading sooner) Not having the same attachment, I haven't really thought much about this last movie, but it's wonderful posts like this that remind me how special it is and how much it marks an era. For me, the era I grew my family. Thank you!

  4. Great post! I actually have not read the books yet (I know I know) BUT I plan to... I have all of the books except for one of them. The reason I loved the 1st movie was because my niece was 10 and she was so excited that I was taking her to this movie and said "Now You are going to SEE why I love reading this book"! She had the biggest smile... one of my favorite memories : )

  5. Have you seen these?

    I love this blog, and reading this post made me think of you!

  6. Oh Wow. You have just put into words exactly how I feel about Harry. Thank you for such a brilliant post.

  7. I feel the exact same way, I connected to every word you wrote, and I'm so happy to know that I'm not the only one whose life has been changed by Harry Potter.