Just like the last four movies, my husband and I went to the midnight showing of Harry Potter last night. It was just like any other midnight showing. We got there at around 10, stood in line for a while, found our seats, were entertained by the costumes and eccentricities that are always brought out when you fill an entire theatre with Potter fans. You could almost taste the excitement in the air.
Instead of being in our favorite theatre back home in Virginia, we were in an unfamiliar place in Connecticut. Instead of being surrounded by people our own age (at this point the post college crowd) we were surrounded by those who barely met the driving age. But the excitement, the impatience, the inability to sit still those last ten minutes before the movie started were still very much the same, yet very different at the same time. This time the premier we’ve been waiting for was bittersweet in a way. It was the end to the Potter era, the end to my childhood.
After viewing the last Harry Potter movie, I realized that I could remember where I was for every major Harry Potter event. I grew up with these characters. They were my best friends for quite some time. Every time there was a lull between book releases, it felt like I was waiting to see a long lost pal who moved away and would be visiting soon. I would drop absolutely everything just to quickly devour the words of JK Rowling, to meet my friends once again, to relish in the adventure, the quest, the honor of the characters and events of the Harry Potter world.
When the Harry Potter books were first released, and there was a big to-do about them, I absolutely refused to read them. Even though I was and still am an avid reader, I was one of those people that didn’t believe in getting caught up in fads and trends. It was actually my younger brother who asked my mother to buy the first two Harry Potter books for him. My mother figured, hey, if the kid is going to read, I’ll buy him whatever books he wants. Of course, even though he promised to read them, they sat on the bookshelf in the hallway collecting dust, until one fateful day, in the summer of 1999.
I was the kind of kid that read everything she could get her hands on. In the fourth grade I read the Odyssey, (quite a feat I might add), and every summer I would enter into the summer reading programs at my local public library. I was so ambitious that one summer I signed up to read 50 books. I remember these very fondly because they gave me something to do over the summer. Yes, I admit, I was that nerdy girl who enjoyed going to school and counted down the days of the summer until she was back in a classroom. This particular summer, however, I found myself bored. Looking for something to do, I decided to peruse the bookshelf in the hallway. I found myself picking up the Harry Potter books because, let’s face it, I probably read everything else on that shelf. They were my last resort.
I picked up the first book, sat on my bed with my back propped up against the wall, and opened to the first chapter, “The Boy Who Lived.” Within seconds, I was hooked. It couldn’t be helped. I read page after page. Moved positions probably a dozen times so my back or arms or legs wouldn’t get stiff. I moved from the bed to the floor. Tried lying on my stomach or sitting with my back up against the wall. I had to get comfortable somehow, because if I wasn’t comfortable, how was I supposed to continue.
Within probably a day I was done, and moved on to the next book. Then school started. Seventh grade. I had to have the third book. I was so obessesed with reading that I even took the book on a field trip, so I could read on the bus. A friend of mine, a guy who would probably become one of my closest friends, who would never be caught reading a book, decided to pick it up and start browsing. He was hooked. He couldn’t get enough. Soon enough he read the first and the second, and then couldn’t wait for the next to come out.
Barely a year later, after I started reading the series, the fourth book was released. My family had a camping trip planned, but I wasn’t about to miss it. Of course, the gang came with me. I read in the car, in the tent, before bed, before we would go to the amusement park, every chance I got I was reading.
It was three years later, the summer yet again, and I was awaiting the arrival of the next book. This time I pre-ordered the book on Amazon so it would be delivered the day it was released. I was sixteen years old. The summer of 2003 was a great summer. I met my future husband, we fell head over heels for each other immediately, and my mother won a trip to Disney World off of our local radio station. One full week of staying in the resort, going to the parks, have a great time, but what was I concerned about? Would I be able to have enough time to read my book?!? Luckily the next installment arrived literally the day before we left. Which was perfect timing if you asked me. Why might you ask… well, it definitely gave me something to do on the airplane ride from Virginia to Florida. Plus, I sure wasn’t going to wait an additional week to start reading. The great thing was, was that I wasn’t the only crazy person on this flight with this wonderful treasure. There were people all around me, children and adults alike, that were engrossed in the story.
Again, I read every chance I could get. I had to know how the book ended. Of course my brothers, who weren’t in to book, couldn’t appreciate what I was going through. I was made fun of for bringing the book to the pool, so I could read and spend time with my family. One of my brothers even went as far as to hide the book from me, as a sort of cruel joke, when I was so close to the end. Needless to say, he got a little taste of sisterly love for that one.
2005, the year I graduated high school, and the release of the sixth installment. I was working all summer, trying to put some money back for college. I was waiting tables at a small family owned restaurant in my home town. I ordered my book from Amazon the day it was available for pre-order, so it would be waiting for me at home. But guess what I did differently this time. This time there were no family functions planned. This time, as soon as I knew when to expect Harry and friends in my mailbox, I asked for the next day off from work. Why you may ask… Because I had to read it entirely in one night, and if I were to do that, I would need to sleep the next day. And that is exactly what I did.
2007, my second year of college. I was taking summer courses so I could graduate early: French and Art History. My roomate and I were huge Potter fans. We couldn’t wait to get our hands on the next books. We planned to go to the midnight release party for the book. My first. My last. The excitement continually increased as the night wore on. As each minute and second edged closer to midnight it was difficult to contain it. I remember going with my then fiance, now husband. It was quite convenient that he was there, that way he could drive on our way home as I tried to read the first few words of the story in the dark of the car. We went back to the apartment, and I immediately started reading. My roomate and I took the next day off from classes. You should know why by now… We both had French together. Looking back on it, I wonder how many people actually showed up that day.
I remember opening that book for the first time. I remember the way it felt as the spine so gently broke. Of how heavy the book felt in my hands as I tried to once again get into a comfortable position in order to hold that wonderful tome. How I felt as I realized that this was the end. Wondering where the story was going to go, how the issues would get resolved, if I was going to be happy or sad as it ended. And the truth is I was all of the above. I was happy because everything worked out. There was a reason for Snape’s madness, for Harry’s sacrifices over the years, and being able to see how each of the characters ended up. I was sad for the friends that I lost both in death and because the quest, the adventure, the story, were all over.
As I closed the book for the first time, tears rolling down my eyes, I couldn’t believe it. It was over.
Luckily I had four years left of movie releases that would prolong having to face the facts: The story, the characters, the friends that I had made during my youth in those ink printed, bound pages were gone. Until last night, I was able to prolong the inevitable. Again, as the movie closed, as the credits scrolled across the screen, as tears rolled down my face, the inevitable happened. A finality. The closing of a chapter of my life. The realization that I am a 24 year old adult, and not a child anymore. I grew up with the students of Hogwarts. I watched them grow, become honorable, fight for was they believed in, and was proud of each of them. In many ways I like to believe that I grew up with them. JK Rowling and the Harry Potter crew defined a generation. They defined my generation. I just hope both of us will continue to have a lasting impact on the world around us.