I feel like with my periodic bursts of Potter-Talk, I should give some sort of explanation of the birth of my obsession with Harry Potter. Those of you who also obsess don’t need an explanation – you have your own story of how you were hypnotized by these books. But for those of you who don’t get it? Here is my story:
During the fall of 1999, I found myself in a sort of dark place in my life. I was newly single, and newly friendless after my years of shitty behavior had come back to haunt me. I was preoccupying myself with LilZ’s life and school to distract myself from the loneliness. Granted – I did a lot of socializing on the nights LilZ was with his Dad – but it’s not like that was very fulfilling either. I was usually just drunk and lonely then.
I ended up with a $100 gift card to Books-A-Million, leftover from my birthday, I supposed. I just remember finally going into the store to find some books to distract myself with. I wasn’t sure what I wanted, but since I was an avid reader, I decided it would be pretty easy to find something that appealed to my senses.
This was shortly after the release of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban so there were still several displays up around the store. Since I was without TV and only used the internet for school, I had never heard of Harry Potter. Something about the display intrigued me and I bought the three books released to that point. I remember thinking, “I can not believe I’m spending all of this on kids books.”
I sat down the next Friday night and started reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I did not stop until I finished Prisoner of Azkaban three days later. I was overwhelmed by how much I loved those books. I had never been as gripped by a story. It appealed to my childhood desire to find out I had secret powers and a secret life. The dream that I was truly special in some way. I fell in love with the characters, the story, the fantasy, the imagery, everything.
I went to school on Monday (I worked in the same department I was studying in) and ran around telling everyone about the awesome books I had read. Turns out? Most of them had already read them. Including THREE of my professors. I guess it was then that I knew that this “Harry Potter” must be more popular than most kids books.
The following July was when the 4th book was to be released. I still had no concept of the fanfare around the books as I kept pretty isolated from the media. I heard that Books-a-Million would release them on midnight, so I headed to the store about 11:45 to pick one up. I was FLOORED by the madness that surrounded me as I entered the store. There were kids and adults EVERYWHERE. I think it was only then I realized how late to the game I was. I finished it in less than 48 hours.
MrZ and I were dating at the time and both he and my BFF Erin felt forced to read the books so they could join in the frenzy since I was a bit distracted with all things Harry Potter. I eventually got several other of my friends to join in, including Junkie, who has celebrated several HP milestones with me. She and I have been to the last two midnight releases together and she will be here on Friday, all the way from Seattle, to bring the series to a close.
To me, Harry Potter has been more than just a book series I’ve followed. There are solid memories I have associated with these books. Memories that mirror the person I was while reading the books. The first three books gave me friends when I was friendless. I found kinship as an adult with McGonagall, Dumbledore, Sirius, and Mrs. Weasley. I even felt a kinship with Harry’s Mom in book three as he relived her final moments – dying to protect him. But I also found friends in the children. Ron, Hermione and Harry – in those first three books – allowed me to be young again.
When book 5 came out, I was happily engaged to MrZ and slowly trying to introduce the very young LilZ to the books. I was neck-deep in wedding planning and chaos before book 5. Junkie and I actually stayed up all night reading it so we’d finish it before my lingerie shower the next day. I’ll never do that again (more about that when I post about my “method” I’ve developed for reading the books) because it went waaaay too fast.
I was pregnant with NikkiZ when book 6 came out. My friends threw me a surprise birthday party and we celebrated the book release all in the same night. It was the first celebration the kids really got into. Although, LilZ didn’t finish reading it until about a month ago. I remember crying over Dumbledore’s death and just rubbing my belly feeling her move around to comfort me.
Some of my most wonderful memories are associated with these books. Some fantastic conversations, celebrations, and laughter with friends. When I picked up the first one, I was alone. I had no romantic partner or friends. But this seventh one? Comes to me married to my best friend (who has also read all of the books) and celebrating the release with two women who I’ve reunited with since those dark days. They are as excited as I am as are our children. We all wore matching shirts to the last release, that’s how awesomely dorktastic we are.
I guess I tell you all of this to give you a little insight as to why there is such a frenzy for me with these books. And going to the midnight movie releases and midnight book releases puts me in company of hundreds (if not thousands) of like-minded freaks. The air of suspense at these events is thick with excitement. You look around and make eye-contact with people who understand. They get goosebumps during the countdown and have their pictures taken when they buy their copies. Some wear costumes and some wish they did. I have never felt a crowd as breathless over something in my life. And I’ve seen Pink Floyd, The Grateful Dead, Michael Jackson (Thriller tour) and The Cure in concert.
I don’t talk a lot about theories, but I have my favorite moments (When Harry and Voldemort’s wands reacted against each other at the end of Book 4 – the moment when his Mom and Dad appeared) and my favorite characters (Tonks, Ron, Mrs. Weasley, and Luna) and my favorite books (Book 6). I have read some more than others but I’ve read them all more than once. I’ve also listened to them all on CD and will forever love Jim Dale for the life he has given these books in my mind. I own a rare copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone that was the editor’s edition. I’ve at least tried every flavor of Bertie Botts (I still think Sardine is worse than Vomit) and own a Fizing Whizbees shirt. I carry a Hedwig backpack to every event. LilZ and I had our pictures taken at Sears in Harry Potter garb. I am a fan.
I can not wait to be a part of this on Friday. I can not wait to celebrate it with my son and my best friends and their daughters – who are like my own children. I can not wait to savor each and every word and no matter what happens, I’m sure I’ll cry at the end.
Update from 2020: I still care a LOT about these books (currently watching the second movie with Nikki) but I have major anger towards JKR for her transphobia. I wrote about it here and here. Just want to make sure this is documented as an update because it’s a very real disappointment and anger in my life right now.