An Open Letter to Harry Potter

The thought of writing about my journey with Harry Potter is something that has always kind of frightened me. There are a few subjects in my life that have had such a profound impact on me that thinking about them too much makes me cry, and Harry Potter is one of those things. But seeing as today is the 18th anniversary of The Battle of Hogwarts, it seems like a good time to delve in.

I am of the exact, proper age to have grown up completely in the Harry Potter generation. I’m currently 19 (I will be 20 in July), and can’t actively remember a time in my life when I didn’t have Harry Potter. The first book was published in America in 1998, and my mom began reading it to me when I was 3 years old. Every night, my mom and dad and I would cuddle up in their bed and my mom would read a chapter aloud, her finger following along with the words. This was one of the ways I learned how to read.

When my brother was born in June of 2001, I was in kindergarten, and my love of Harry Potter was in full swing. At this point I had heard books 1-4, and one of my favorite games was having my parents and grandparents pretend to be professors and I was a student at Hogwarts doing my lessons. For Halloween that year, I was a witch and my brother was baby Harry Potter. At this point the movies weren’t out yet, so everything was still up to our imaginations. What Harry Potter merchandise there was, was all hand illustrated and held a certain magic and perfection that just can’t be reproduced by live actors.

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Myself and my brother dressed to impress for Halloween in 2001

When I was in first grade the first Harry Potter movie came out. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world, because as I was experiencing my first year of real school (as well as being at a new school), Harry and his friends were going through the same things! Granted, I wasn’t at a boarding school, my lessons were much different, and there weren’t centaurs in the forest warning me about dark wizards, but still, that classic, mundane things that the golden trio were going through, I was going through too.

We were all trying to make friends and fit in. We were all dealing with bullies and classes we didn’t like. There were rules we didn’t follow and got in trouble for. I was a bushy haired, little nerd (honestly, I still am) and Hermione was everything I wanted to be. She was unapologetically smart, had great friends who loved her, and always seemed to save the day.

I’ve always had a hard time with friends, both making them and keeping them. I’m an introverted person, and doing the things necessary to please people into friendship has honestly, never really been a huge deal for me. At various times in my life I would look around and realize I didn’t have many or even any friends, but I always had Harry Potter and he always shared his friends with me. I have never been alone, because I have always had Harry.

When I got to second grade and started to hit my stride with elementary school friends, we were all dramatic and nerdy, so we pretend to be Harry Potter characters and run around the playground casting spells. My best friends were Eric and Katie, Eric was always Harry, Katie was Ginny, and I of course was Hermione. We had other friends who would fill the spots of other characters, I don’t remember who was Ron, but I know our friend Maria was Cho Chang.

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My brother and I having a wizard battle in front of the “Potter” family tomb in a cemetery in Chicago (I won)

Some time around here, I started re-reading the books for myself. My mom still read the new books aloud to the whole family when they first came out, as was tradition, but then I would take them and spend months devouring them slowly, memorizing the details no one else took the time to know. I can’t tell you how many Harry Potter themed birthday parities I went to, all of them different, yet all of them perfectly magical.

My parents indulged me and spent what I can only assume amounted to hundreds of dollars worth of toys and clothes to make my own Hogwarts uniform (I cosplayed before it was cool). There were things I didn’t get (I’m looking at you robotic Norbert), and things my mom and grandmothers had to make for me because they either didn’t exist or were too expensive. I had a book accurate, silvery cloak of invisibility I used to run around in. I made class schedules and a trunk out of an old box. I would use my mom’s spices to make potions in the sink and her shaving creme to make different potions in the shower (sorry mom….)

As I got older, so did Harry Potter. His stories got darker, his world more dangerous, but his mundane problems still mirrored mine. I learned how to deal with bullies, how to deal with friend fights, and how to have a boyfriend from Harry Potter. I learned a lot of big life lessons from Harry Potter and his friends. They taught me how to deal with the loss of a loved one, how to be alone, and how to know when to ask for help. There were dark times in my life, times when I was terribly sad and didn’t know what to do, but Harry and the gang were always there for me, always a bright spot on the horizon.

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My personal set of Harry Potter books, along with my lego Night Bus

I was in 6th grade when the last Harry Potter book came out. My family and I dressed up and went to a book launch party the night before it came out. The next morning we went to the local book store and picked up our copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. We were older now, and couldn’t wait to see what the book contained. For the next week and a half, my dad drove the car everywhere and my mom sat in the passengers seat and read to us. There were some parts where her voice would fail from grief and she would hand me the book and I would read a for a few pages.

When I was a sophomore in high school, the last Harry Potter movie came out. I desperately wanted to go to the midnight premiere, but didn’t get the chance to. I did, however, see the movie twice in theaters. The movie didn’t make me cry the way the book had, but the knowledge that I would never sidle up to the ticket box at a movie theater or crack the spine of a brand new Harry Potter book again was incredibly hard for me. Harry Potter had been such a huge part of my life for so long that I felt empty when it was over. It felt too final, like I had lost something. I had to remind myself that if I got lonely, all I had to do was open a book or slide in a dvd and I would instantly be transported back home, to Hogwarts.

When I was a senior in high school my mom and I got matching Harry Potter tattoos on our ankles, to commemorate such a huge part of both of our lives. A couple months later, the night of homecoming, there was a Harry Potter party at my local Barnes & Noble. My dad and brother went to check it out and called my mom and told her she had to bring me to Barnes & Noble right away because Snape was there and I had to meet him! Well, my whole homecoming group, made a last minute stop to B&N where I met Severus Snape. I told him I was excited and he responded “Ooobbviouslyyy”, to which I may have squealed, and then borderline cried after I had my picture taken while shaking and hugging my “bookstore  friend”.

Later that year, my family and I would pack up and spend a grand total of 6 hours in the tiny stretch of amusement park in Orlando, Florida: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Hogsmeade. At this point in my life, I was a Pottermore sorted (and incredibly proud) Slytherin. I, therefore, spent a crazy amount of my own money outfitting myself as a true Slytherin, and trash talking the Gryffindor employees in line for The Forbidden Journey (which I rode at least 7 times). It was the best day of my life. I had been fully immersed in a world I loved that was finally real, drank butter beer and pumpkin juice, and my wand chose me (holly, dragon heartstring, rather bendy). All in all, I almost cried, shook a lot, and got over excited and ended up getting sick a couple days later, but it was the single best day of my life to date.

Over the past two years, while I have found other places to put a lot of my mild obsession of fictional characters, Harry Potter will always be my first love and number one everything. Whenever I have to wear a costume, my Hogwarts uniform is my go to choice. I’m almost always reading Harry Potter, the only digital movies I own are Harry Potter, so I can watch them anywhere. I have formed amazing friendships with other crazy Harry Potter lovers, mostly Hufflepuffs, a few Gryffindors, and one other Slytherin. My phone case is always Harry Potter; I process difficult situations by relating them to Harry Potter events, and I explain things using Harry Potter references.

I had mostly Harry Potter buttons on my apron at beauty school, and was wearing my Slytherin scarf when I passed my Cosmetology State Boards. I have revisited the Wizarding World a second time to see Diagon Alley and ride the Hogwarts Express, both of which were amazing, and I’m counting the days until I can physically return. My heart swells with joy and pride every time someone from the Harry Potter universe does another amazing deed, or a new Harry Potter spin off book, play, or movie is announced. For every holiday I ask for more amazing Harry Potter “merch”, and my collection is ever growing.

 

Throughout my life, many things and people have come and gone, but one constant has remained: Harry Potter. As I’ve grown my favorite characters have evolved, the stories I relate to most have changed, and we’ve all grown up. But the magic is still real to me, and I leap at every chance to share that magic with others. Harry Potter is my past present and future (sneaky Voldemort paraphrase), and I can’t wait to see where this amazing world goes next.

Thank you to everyone who has ever been and ever will bring this beautiful thing to life. Thank you J.K.Rowling for creating this lush, wonderful world that is so real to so many people, and has helped raise an entire generation. The impact you and your character have had on my life is immeasurable, and without Harry Potter I have no idea who I would be today. Thank you for taking us on this journey and for giving us a beautiful, magical home, that always welcomes us back no matter where we are or how we get there. Thank you.

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