And thank you, Jo. So much. For everything.
It’s taken me over a week to write this post because I’ve been dreading it. It’s the end of an era. Everyone spent the last two weeks posting their Harry Potter stories. This series has touched so many lives, young and old, and I’m not quite sure another book is ever going to have the same effect. I mean, there is a theme park for these stories. But I digress.
So my story, my love affair with Harry, started when I was much, much younger. I was of the variety of readers that had to wait months (sometimes years) between each book release. I remember, with unnatural levels of clarity, the day I sat down to read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I was 13, in 8th grade, and one of the most vivacious readers you have ever seen. My mother, being an educator and a librarian, would often bring home books for me that she thought I’d enjoy.
Well the day Harry Potter came home, it was accompanied by two other books. One was Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson. The second title I cannot remember, but the plot is still fresh in my mind. I scoffed at Harry Potter. Literally. I laughed and told my mother it looked like a book for little kids. I read Speak first. It remains one my favorite books to this day. I read the second book next, and then reluctantly, the following weekend, in a moment of boredom, I picked up Harry Potter and took it to my bedroom.
Fast-forward eight hours later and I hadn’t left my room. I hadn’t eaten. I had done nothing but fall completely and hopelessly in love with Harry and his world and Ron and Hermione and Hogwarts and Dumbledore and Diagon Alley and Peeves. When I read the final line of that novel I remember doing two things: 1) Growing incredibly depressed that I was already 13 and had no chance of ever receiving an owl accepting me to Hogwarts, and 2) Running from my bedroom and down the hall to the kitchen where I announced to my mother that Harry Potter was the best book I had ever read.
I did lots of crazy, over-the-top fan-girling that first year in eighth grade. I made a terrible fan site, hand-coded and built on geocities.* I took tracing paper and copied all the illustrations that prefaced each chapter onto individual sheets.** I hand wrote an encyclopedia that kept tabs on all the characters, places and spells in the story.*** I was obsessed. And in love. Harry claimed the spot in my heart that yearned to escape into a magical world. While the obsessive nature of encyclopedia-writing and illustration-tracing died off, my love for Harry did not. He took me through junior high, high school, and later college. The movies took me through my first jobs after graduation, my wedding day, my own journey of finding an agent and getting a book deal.
I still can’t really comprehend the phenomenon these books have become. I remember being the only one reading them in my group of friends, and then suddenly people who had refused to read them for years were raving about them and devouring them back to back. I remember feeling jealous that they could read books 1-5 in a single weekend and I had to wait endlessly between them all. It was all worth it though, the waiting. It was worth growing up with Harry, being 13 when I read the first book and being 26 when I saw the last movie. It was worth reading each book four or five times over as I waited for the next one to be released.
God, these books. Thank you, Jo. For writing these characters, for giving us this world, for letting us escape in magic but always be rooted in friendship and family and love. I will miss waiting for the next installment, but you said it perfectly: “The stories we love best do live in us forever, so whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.”
I’m almost crying now. I think it’s time to go work on my revisions.
But first, let me say it one last time:
Photo by miraze
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
* Yeah, remember geocities? Cringe.
** This was mainly because I a) loved the illustration style and b) wanted to learn how to write in “Harry Potter” font.
*** By “encyclopedia” I mean spiral bound notebook.