Early this morning, I brought in the 3 newspapers waiting by my office's front door. Each front page boasted something about the HP craze coming to an end this week. The rant about how that's not true is for another time.
One article lead me to Dear Mr. Potter, a collection of fan written letters to J.K., to the characters, to the actors, to anyone who made the experience of reading and/or watching the series a significant one. Those who know me probably found out within 5 minutes of meeting me that the HP experience is something I hold near and dear to my heart. Ask my boss, I once sent him quite the e-mail exchange (more like a thesis) defending how the series is amazing. So I figure this letter business is something I should do.
Dear Mr. Potter (but technically Rowling, because c'mon, she's the strong woman who invented you):
Very, very often I think about how lucky I am to have had one of the best teachers ever when I was in the 6th grade. Mr. Vendetti believed that being read aloud to was one of the greatest gifts a person could receive and give. While we 6th graders were anxiously waiting to graduate during the last few days of the school year, stuck on the highest floor of one of the oldest buildings in the city (read: no AC), he read to us the most boring book in the world. With only 3 days left, he decided to abandon whatever it was he was reading and switch to a new book he stumbled upon: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. We only made it through the first few chapters, but I was already sold (I think it was the Put-Outer...or what we later learned was called the Deluminator, but I digress).
Within days, I was at the library and I took the book home with me to finish. Honestly, I had read everything else on the children's side of the library and that's what was left. No exaggeration. As soon as I finished, I dragged my parents right back to the library to get Chamber of Secrets and snagged Prisoner of Azkaban at the same time. Within 4 days I was ready for the next one and it broke my heart when I found out it didn't exist yet. I had never encountered this problem before. There was always an endless supply of Nancy Drew, Encyclopedia Brown, Baby-sitters Club, Anastasia Krupnik, Alice, etc. books for my enjoyment, how could there not be a complete HP series for me? Yes, I was already that selfish and thought in such ways. Waiting for that book was the longest year of my life.
I survived only because I dove into those first three books repeatedly. 7th grade would have been much more horrific without that reading experience always waiting for me when I got home from school and away from the taunts of the horrible girl I shared a locker with, the constant teasing from students who didn't quite understand the purpose of secondhand clothes, the loss of good friends to the popular crowd, and all of the other crappy junior high memories that come with being a frizzy haired, bucktoothed, know-it-all (sound familiar?). I clearly know I had it better than many people and often had no reason to complain, but I definitely went through a depressed period throughout junior high and some of high school, and HP (along with friends and family) kept me afloat. It's not that they provided an escape or distraction from life, but they provided ways to understand and accept what was going on around me at that time. For that, I'm appreciative.
The HP characters were dependable. I understood their motives, appreciated their closeness, cherished the love that is the core of the series. For me, the magic was all in the background. What truly mattered was how perfectly crafted the characters and story were so that every person or creature and every situation was completely relatable. I was Hermione. I still see myself as Hermione (though I did have a bit of an identity crisis when Luna Lovegood emerged).
What else did HP bring to me? HP brought me close to the people who are my best friends today. It gave me the chance to share an amazing experience with my family. Some of my favorite memories involve fighting with my grandmother over whether they'd have to switch the cast of the movies so they would always look 11 ("NANA, THEY GET OLDER IN THE BOOKS!"). It showed me that women, both real and fictional, could be wise, strong and successful, which in turn helped me accept my nerdiness: I once danced throughout a dress rehearsal while holding the Order of the Phoenix in my hands because it came out that day and I sat with about 8 friends at a graduation party that coincided with the release of Half-Blood Prince and raced to finish first. I could go on and on and on. And I apparently already did because I wrote not a letter, but a small novel. Jeez.
But most importantly HP helped me understand love, friendship and family, and how these 3 are intertwined. As much as I love the last 4 books for their complexity and dark elements, I treasure the first 3 for introducing me to and keeping these elements in my life.
That got sappy fast. So to, uh, counteract that, does anyone else still say "her-me-un" in their head while they read the books? No, just me? Okay."Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and, above all, those who live without love." - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows