Friday, January 4, 2013

How I fell in love with Harry Potter (Pt 1)

Hogwarts CastleConfession: I was not always a Potterhead.

It's a statement that even I have a hard time understanding. But it took me almost a decade to even give the series a shot. I was a Freshman in High School the year that the first Harry Potter book was released. I guess that technically makes me an ideal age to start the series, but you see....I was simply too cool. Obviously.

(Please, please, read my sarcasm.)

I was a reader of a child; never happier than when I sat among a stack of books, flipping through pages, looking at pictures, and making up my own stories. As life went on, I read here or there, but by the time I hit high school, books were not on my radar. The ones I had to read for school were already so in the way of my social life, I had no time to add any others to my to do list. I didn't return to the written word until very early adulthood...somewhere in the ballpark of age 18/19, thanks to my sweet friend and her introduction to Nicholas Sparks.

(For the record, I've read all of his books, and still do so as they come out as a sort of obligation for getting me back into reading - I even met the man...see:

...but I now see him as a very cheesy, redundant author, spread a bit thin for the sake of meeting deadlines, making movies, and keeping a steady cash flow. But whatevs, thanks for signing my "The Notebook" DVD! xoxo)

My sister, who is a year and a half younger than I, DID read the Harry Potter series as it was happening. Ya know, in real time. She read each one as it was released. I used to make fun of her for it. CAN YOU BELIEVE ME! I can't. Something was clearly wrong with back-then me. There was even a moment circa 2001 when a Canadian cashier accused my then-boyfriend of looking like Harry Potter in his license picture while we were on vacation (you guys, he totally did) and she was ID-ing him for an alcohol purchase, and I was TOTALLY OFFENDED. Because back then, Harry Potter was this dweeby nerd-o idea that only super-sonic nerds were into. My ex agreed with me, I think, because from then on, I'd call him Harry Potter as a jab, and he totally hated it. (There was totally some unharnessed potential there, but let's move on.)

I can clearly remember a moment in August of 2005, when I came back from Charlotte to finish up my degree, and my sister exited her room with tears streaming down her face. I was still too cool at this point in life (obviously), and noticing the green, wizardy cover of the 6th Harry Potter book in her hands, I asked her what was wrong with a smirk on my face. I know her words were, "DUMBLEDORE IS DEAD!", and while I'm really positive my sister wouldn't shout such a thing, I clearly remember it as a "how dare you not understand the severity of this moment" exclamation, with the fury of a mama bear protecting her cubs. And get this. I'm pretty sure I made fun of her for crying over "some nerd book".

You don't even have to say it....I hate 2005 me, too.

Later that school year, I was given access to the Scholastic Warehouse. I was studying elementary education, and that gave me the credentials to get in and shop around at really cheap prices. One of my teachers encouraged us to do this so that we could start building up our library for our future classrooms (one that never came to fruition, for me). I VERY RELUCTANTLY bought the first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. I did so, because I knew kids loved it (for some crazy wild reason!), and that despite my own tastes...I should probably have it in my classroom. When I moved back to Charlotte, it came with me, and it ended up on my bookshelf with all the others. As time went by, and I realized that my some-day classroom wasn't meant to be (story for another day), that book STARED AT ME from the shelf. I'm serious. It was some wizard magic, I'm certain. Some of the movies had already come out, and there was talk of the final book being released, and I am SUCH A SUCKER for following cultural phenomena that I couldn't help myself. I didn't want to miss out on being a part of it. I picked it up one night when I had nothing else to do, FULLY EXPECTING to hate its guts...........and I read half the book on the first night. And I finished it the next day. Of course, I was able to do this because it was back in the day of no children, and no obligations on the weekends, and it wasn't odd to spend an unhygienic amount of time in the same pjs, sipping sugary Tang and eating pizza rolls while we played Sim City or Animal Crossing. (PS, I love that that was our life.)

I was totally, embarrassingly hooked to Harry Potter and his world.

I believe I checked the second book out from the library. I can actually close my eyes and picture the moment I read the words, "It is our choices, Harry, that show us who we truly are, far more than our abilities," (and yes, I typed that from memory)...and I CRIED. I actually shed tears at the end of book two, when absolutely nothing terrible happened, because I realized how much this poor Harry was carrying on his shoulders at the age of 12. So when I returned the book to the library, I drove the 30 seconds to Target to BUY my copy of it, as well as the next 4 books in line. (This was also back in the day of having money I could just blow on splurgey book purchases, and daily caramel frappucinos at the Barnes & Noble Starbucks, where I usually took my lunch breaks. Also, it was back in the day of being able to drink daily caramel frappucinos and still wear belly shirts around the house. That practice has since died and been buried under about 100 feet of dirt.)

From approximately April - June of 2007, I devoured all of the books. In three short months, I became a rabid, devote Potterhead. I was so thrilled with finishing the first 6 books before the 7th one came out so I could jump on the excitement bandwagon and act like I'd been waiting 10 years for it like the die hard fans. (I'm just kidding, don't hurt me. I'm jealous of you if you read along through the years. I actually felt guilt when I read JK Rowling's dedication at the start of Deathly Hallows, praising the readers that stuck with her from the beginning. I might have even blushed out of embarrassment.)

I remember going to work in the weeks leading up to #7's July release, talking about it and bouncing around in my chair like I couldn't contain myself. I kept reasoning that Dumbledore's death was all a big conspiracy, and I had crazy ideas of how Harry & Hermione were destined to be together (ew, can you imagine? So not right.). I actually wrote down this energized plan of what I thought would happen. The ONLY thing I got right was that Harry was the last horcrux, but, come on...who didn't guess that?

So anyway, the book came out, my ONLY hard-cover in the series, because I was all lame-o and faux allergic to the first six books, and I spent a crazy amount of time lying in bed, reading Deathly Hallows. This was nuts, because my wedding was about two weeks after the book came out. Can you picture a bride, who was...well, not quite a bridezilla, but definitely heavily invested in her plans, and a little extra anxious because her wedding was happening in her hometown, but she had to plan it from 600+ miles away.........spending the weekend that was two weeks before her wedding, reading a book? A fairly large, long book? Me neither, but that was the case. I'll never forget that first read. The way I had to stop and put it down after each loss...the way I cried and mourned Hedwig and Dobby - probably more than anyone else in the book! I don't think I will ever remember the reading of a book, as clearly or vividly as I do that one.

And here's a funny note. Matt was reading the series along with me (I think he got swept up in my sudden enthusiasm, and he had seen some of the movies)...and he obviously had to wait until I finished reading each one before he could get to it. When he finally started reading Deathly Hallows, I'd make him discuss it with me up until the points he'd read to. If I noticed he made progress on it the night before, I'd grill him the next day. During one of these discussions, I accidentally let it slip that Harry died......and I was about to talk about what happened after he "died"....but he was so outraged with my slip, that I never got it out. And I decided to let him think that was the ending, and yep, I ruined it, Harry  Potter is totally dead...gone, done forever. And when he finished the book, he was mad at me all over again for letting him believe that. Hahaha...oops.

When I was finished with the books, I needed to see the movies. I'd seen #3 about 1,000 times...but never from start to finish. In 2005, when I was home for school (when Dumbledore was busy dying in the books), Prizoner of Azkaban was playing on repeat on HBO. I'd always catch bits and pieces of it while my sister was watching it. I think that scene in the pumpkin patch where Harry & Hermione are hiding behind massive, unnatural looking pumpkins will forever be etched in my memory. But anyway. I borrowed the DVDs from a co-worker and Matt & I flew through them together. The Order of the Phoenix (#5) was still in theaters when I was finished, so we went together to see it. We saw The Half Blood Prince (#6) for my birthday in 2009 - my mom & sister were visiting us in Charlotte, and it was the first time I'd EVER left the house with someone babysitting Luke (he was 8 months old!).  We went to see Deathly Hallows pt 1 together for a date night in 2010, after we moved back here to Buffalo. And then.....oh, part 2. The release date was the same day my second baby was born! You have no idea how upset I was. I called my sister from the hospital, hours after my baby being born, because I knew she went to the midnight release and I wanted details. I really thought I was going to have to wait for its DVD release (depressingly enough), but three weeks later, I was mostly healed...and much to my delight, it was still in select theaters. One of those being the drive-in....where we could take our newborn and I could nurse him and get him to sleep without bothering anyone. We could even lay down in the back of the van if we needed to (and we did!). The very next weekend, it was out of theaters. We made it just in time, and it was a very satisfying accomplishment.

This is the point where my Harry Potter devotion became really-real. I had all of the books and movies under my belt, I owned about half the DVDs, and I talked about it in more detail than even my sister, who'd been an original fan! When we went on a cruise (for our delayed honeymood, sort of)...we actually attended a Harry Potter trivia event on the ship, and we got second place! We lost because I couldn't remember the name of the mandrakes.....which is INSANITY, because I could tell you everything about them at this point...and I will never forget the sound of them ringing through the streets of Hogsmeade out of my head. But, I'm getting ahead of myself....my pilgrimage to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is my story for next time.

How did you find Harry Potter?

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