Friday, July 08, 2011

My Gratitude and Farewell to Harry Potter

Thursday evening I will attend my last ever Harry Potter midnight premiere.

That sentence alone leaves me feeling quite sad. Therefore I find it's only appropriate that I add my token of farewell and thanks to the ever-growing list of sentiments, and chronicle my personal story with the boy-wizard who stole my heart and the hearts of so many.

NOTE: Half Blood Prince spoilers ahead. If you've read the book, seen the movie, or don't care, proceed.

Harry Potter and the magical world of J.K. Rowling's creation came into my life late. Three books and one movie were already out. In fact, at first I rejected Harry Potter entirely. A boyfriend and I were very ill and had rented some dvds, including Sorcerer's Stone. I don't know if it was the illness or what, but we turned it off half way through.

Fast forward a year or two and I found myself in a deserted beach town mid-winter with no book. After searching everywhere for an open book store I was forced to concede and pull into a Wal-Mart. The measly half-aisle of selection yielded Romance novels, a few best sellers I had no interest in whatsoever, and Harry Potter. Many, many copies of Harry Potter. Out of a combination of desperation and the desire to keep up with pop culture (the buzz was palpable), I bought my first Harry Potter book.

I was instantly hooked.

The best thing about starting late was that I didn't have to wait for the next two books to be published. I feverishly consumed the first three and watched the two movies that were out, which I adored by the way. And then I waited. (Side note: I had a great fear of flying for a time and was headed out to Seattle. I managed to control my fear by the belief that God would not take me before I found out how Harry Potter ended. I felt strongly about this and took great comfort in it.)

Prisoner of Azkaban (Year 3) was the first movie to come out after I was hooked. My intention was to go to the midnight premiere, and every midnight premiere after that, lamenting the fact that I had missed the first two. I will never forget my first Harry Potter midnight premiere, but not for the reasons you may think.

My boyfriend at the time, whom I was obsessively and madly in love with, dumped me the evening of the premiere. This is entirely true. This break-up took a while, largely on my part (no need to tell this embarrassing tale). Lets just say it was rather late when I finally got the message. As I walked to my car desperately trying to maintain some semblance of dignity, the horrible man asked me if I would be okay and "where are you going"? I wiped my tears, turned toward him and said, "I am going to Harry Potter. I am not letting you ruin this for me." Then I turned and got into my car and drove to the theater for my first premiere. I was immensely proud of myself and grateful to Harry who was able to salve my heartache for several hours.

The fanfare of midnight premieres is great fun. There are costumes, HP theory debates prior to previews, and at the first note of that beloved intro music there is rapturous applause. The movie was brilliant, as Ron would say.

My memory of the book release of Year 4 is fuzzy. However, I recall very clearly marking my calendar for the book release of Year 5 and even getting one of those little widget count down things on my desktop for every movie and book afterward. I planned a personal day for Year 5. It came out in July. Although I lived in Philadelphia I clearly recall purchasing the book the morning after it came out (I had no interest in midnight book premieres) at the Menlo Park Mall Barnes and Noble so that I could immediately go to my favorite beach in Spring Lake, NJ. I made a day of it and it was very special.

By this time my Mom was enjoying Harry Potter too. I was so into it that I actually lamented to her how much I wished I had someone to share theories with. She went out and got the books and started reading them. I had picked her up Year 5 when I got mine. Later that day we went to a nearby dock and read quietly together. Once my Mom got into it I took her to each movie as soon as our schedules would allow once they came out (and always looked forward to experiencing each movie a second time with her).

The movie release for Goblet of Fire (Year 4) is also hazy, which I regret because I was dating my now-husband. I will have to check my ticket stubs to find out if this was his first Harry Potter movie in the theaters. I was still living in Philadelphia and we had a long-distant relationship so this would have been difficult. I know we had watched the first three together when we started dating. In fact, he bought me the third movie as a gift when it came out on DVD. I do clearly remember this. He always supported my love of Harry Potter, which is why we kept dating. ;-)

I am certain, however, that we went to Order of the Phoenix (Year 5) together at midnight. I missed the midnight premiere of Half Blood Prince (Year 6), but this was a very special year nevertheless. Mike, my husband who I was still only dating, and I were on vacation with dear friends and could not find a theater nearby with a midnight showing so everyone agreed to tag along the next afternoon even though most of them had never seen any movies prior to it. We went to the most dilapidated theater I have ever set foot in on the boardwalk in Wildwood, NJ. The arm rests were missing leaving rusted jagged strips of metal and your feet stuck to the floor. I recall my friend Knarr yelling "No horseplay!' at some excited kids running down the center aisle. Rudy faked a sneeze and dumped half his popcorn on Mike's head. We were a motley bunch and I am pretty certain they all tagged along out of kindness and to share in my excitement. Later, Dani confused her summer blockbusters and asked me if Dumblebee was really dead. I am happy to report though that since then Rudy has become a fan.

I was living with Mike when the Half Blood Prince book came out. By this point avoiding spoilers was nearly impossible and took great effort. I somberly cried at the death of beloved Dumbledore, and felt a sense of loneliness and fear. Afterall, who would lead us and give us the secrets of Voldemort's defeat? He was our hope, our light.

I walked into the living room, tears streaming, and asked Mike to hold me. He asked what was wrong. "I can't tell you," I sobbed. I'm pretty sure he laughed at me. He should have thanked me for not ruining the movies for him haha.

I bought the final book with a sense of sadness, knowing it was the end. The story ends magnificently, as I knew it would. The magical world Rowling has created for us lives on in our hearts. But I knew at the time that the real "this is the end" sadness was staved by the fact that there were more movies yet to be released. The news that Deathly Hallows would be split into two movies was ecstatically welcomed as a huge bonus. Part 1 was outstanding (and may very well be my favorite one yet). But now, much like Harry, we are very much coming face to face with the end. This saddens me.

Thankfully, J.K. Rowling in her infinite brilliance and compassion has given her fans Pottermore, e-books which will provide over 18,000 words of additional content including background details and settings. And there is more to look forward to. My best friend, Jess is FINALLY reading the books and we will watch the movies together, beginning with Sorcerer's stone Monday night.

And of course there will be the tremendous joy of visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, FL. And lets not forget the best thing; sharing this world with my children whom I eagerly await to read to.

J.K. Rowling and all of the actors in the movies brought such joy into my life. If there was no Harry Potter I would not know the difference, I know. But the joy it has brought me is tangible and can be measured. Every single Harry Potter Weekend on ABC Family excites me. That first musical note of John William's brilliant introduction brings a smile to my face. The books, the movies, the hype, the fans - it's all wonderful and so positive.

And best of all, it will live on. Thank you, J.K. Rowling.

Posted to 7/8/11


Jackie said...

I LOVE this entry and I love how HP was woven into several important milestones in your life and had such impact. My experience with Harry Potter is similar only in that I came into it late--very very late. I had watched the early movies when they appeared on TV, but didn't, well, "get it", and this is despite the fact that my best friend since childhood loved the series.

Shawn has every book and encouraged me last summer to read the books before the final movies were to be released, so I did, one after the other, between which, we watched the movies because he of course owns those as well. I finally got it!

I was dreadfully sad to reach the end of the series. The movies have had less impact than the books, but that may be because the books are just so well-written.

Nevertheless, I'm still looking forward to the last movie and seeing how it plays out on screen.

I agree that Dumbledore's death was tragic. Oddly, I also found Snape's death to be equally as tragic...

Enjoy the premiere and all else! Oh, and my best friend had a GREAT time at the Wizarding World!

Jessica said...

Thanks for reading, Jackie. Another wonderful thing about the books is how much it brings people together by a common interest.