About Me, Pop Culture Shenanigans

When Harry Met Zoot.

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.

30 thoughts on “When Harry Met Zoot.”

  1. I was so excited when I brought up your site and saw that picture! I have about hit the point of counting in hours instead of days – I can’t wait to have the book in my hands.

    I talked to you a bit at the OotP midnight showing about having a media blackout after the book release. You probably have heard by now, but there are supposedly scans of every page of the book online now. There are also videos of people opening the boxes and paging through the book, reading segments.
    I’ve decided not to click on any Potter links for the rest of the week for fear of being directed to spoilers!

  2. My favorite memory was when The Order of the Phoenix was released on my wedding day. Except, that I was getting married in New Hampshire, not in KC. I frantically called around to see if I could order a book somewhere there, but realized that perhaps, my new husband would not want to schlep down from the mountains back to Manchester and wait in line for a BOOK. And I was too nervous to ORDER it. What if it got misdelivered? Egads! So, I settled for re-reading the Goblet of Fire on my honeymoon. Still, one of my favorite memories from my honeymoon was lounging on the grand verandah at the Mt. Washington resort as I read the Goblet of Fire while snuggling in a huge rocking chair. I mean, it’s not my VERY favorite memory from my honeymoon (hee hee), but it ranks pretty high.

  3. Zoot,
    My experience with Harry Potter is similar to yours. Newly single, very depressed, just worn out by life. Then a friend mentioned these books to me and I bought the first three. I fell in love with these characters – they are my friends. Now I have a new husband, a little boy and a different life (I even tried to get my husband to agree to name our son Sirius.) I am looking forward to the new book but I don’t know what I am going to do without these kids!

    Like Scurvy, I am planning a media blackout until I have finished the last book. I am going to lock myself in my room Friday night when I get home from the bookstore and I’m not coming out until I’m done. And I know I’ll cry at the end, too!

  4. I work at a library and we just received 40 copies, prepub. I have to admit I flipped to the end and read a tad, just enough to answer a few questions I had. I am a little disappointed in myself, but got one thing answered. I won’t spoil though!

    I’m excited too.

  5. I LOVE Harry Potter. I can’t believe the last one is coming out now. I’ll be there at midnight!

    Thanks for sharing.

  6. I’ve never read any HP books or seen any movies, but i totally got this post and I think it’s really cool that this franchise means so much to you and has seen you through so much in your life.

  7. Daaaaaaaaaaang, girl…. I wasn’t expecting all that when I first started reading. Everyone around my cube thinks I’m having allergy issues now! Oh, and I love that we’re awesomely dorktastic!!

  8. I never ever imagined that I would be so obsessed with something like Harry Potter. For the last two months I’ve been a mad woman, re-reading all the books, listening to podcasts and reading online theories, and now, I’m impatient like a little kid waiting for Santa Claus. Seriously, I want to fast forward this work week and get to Friday, already. Then, I will lock myself in a room with no media until it’s over.

    Hey, Zoot, did you have a Harry Potter design on this site at one time or am I thinking of someone else?

  9. I am anxiously awaiting the release too. But I want to know your method for reading the books. I always rush through them too fast the first time.

  10. WHY AM i CRYING?? I don’t get it. I must be as big a dork as you?!!!!

    Weird to think we both read the first three the same year. And we were both pregnant when we read the sixth….

    Have a great weekend!

  11. Oh yeah. Your post made me tear up a little. I was working at a small public library in 1998 when kids starting coming in all the time asking for these Harry Potter books, so I thought I should check them out, so I was sucked in my the time the second one came out. I’ve been there for every midnight release, every movie. They were the first books my stepson loved, the first books he read cover-to-cover. So much tied up in them, so many memories. I know I’ll be in tears before the end of the weekend. Sigh.

  12. awwww, man. Love the story! I didn’t start reading it til the 4th book was out and I was in England when the 5th book came out! My fav, too, is the 6th (Snapey goodness).

    I miss my Snape design!!!

  13. **blinks**

    “Since I was without TV and only used the internet for school, I had never heard of Harry Potter.”

    That is a Zoot I never knew……

  14. widgete – College student just trying to make it to the other side while majoring in education, practicing her cooking and make-up hobbies, marching in the band, and living the sorority life...
    Elyse says:

    Ditto, Zoot. I’m in college and no book has ever been so beautiful to me…we are throwing a party Friday night to read the book straight through the night. 🙂

  15. You’re not alone, my friend. Soooo excited. The POD and I will be in line at midnight as well.

    My favorite moment is the same as yours – when his parents come out of the intertwined wands and his father says, “hold on – your mother’s coming…”. Makes me tear up even now.

  16. As a few others said… your post made me cry. Cry because, even though your story starts out sad, it ends very happy, and I wish I could have a similar story to that. But, I don’t.

    I started out, I got book 1 and 2 for Christmas. I was in my rebellious teenage years, so I though, psh, a kids book? And just put them on my shelf. Then, the first one was on TV. And I fell in love. So I read the second book. Raced out, and got the third book, etc.

    I wish I could go to the midnight release. I’d love to do that, be surrounded by the people. But I refuse to go alone, and my boyfriend has to work until midnight.

    Enjoy the book, Zoot, and I’m looking forward to Monday, to come and compare notes and thoughts on the book. =)

  17. i am so scared of THE SPOILERS, i can’t even believe that i’m on the internet right now. and i’m dying to hear about your reading method.
    i mean, i’ve never gone to get one of the books at midnight before, but i’m guessing i won’t be getting out of the store with my book immediately after 12. and then i have to bartend saturday night at 6. i’d LOVE to have the book finished by then, but i also can’t bartend from 6pm to 3am on a saturday during the ann arbor art fair without at least an boiur or two of sleep.
    can this be done?
    someone ruined the 6th book for me, and i’m determined to get through this one unscathed.
    you know, except the part where i will cry like a baby no matter what happens.

  18. OMG. I did not know it was possible for me to be MORE EXCITED about this book…but you’ve done it! I’m even more excited about it after reading this post. SQUEE!!!!!!!!!

  19. I love this post. I felt my heart beating faster as I read it, because I know there are people out there who share my obsession. I’m not able to buy the book at midnight, but I can’t wait for the UPS truck to show up on Saturday with my copy from Amazon. I’m on a blackout til then. And yes, I’ll cry when I’m done.

  20. I am an avid book reader, but have never read any of the Harry Potter books and have one seen (gasp) the first movie. I keep meaning to buy the first one in the series and haven’t gotten around to it.

    I always smile when I read you going nuts over the new book release because I imagine that you feel the same way about the Harry Potter series as I do about the Dark Tower series by Steven King. I’ve known those characters for most of my adult life and loved them, so I understand…

    Enjoy!

  21. I’m not nearly as manic as you (ssshhhh, but I only got half-way through AZKABAN and haven’t read any others tho’ I have them all). BUT, I won a contest and am the proud owner of a first edition of AZKABAN in….Thai! If only I could read the language! Its pretty tho’!

  22. Here, here, Zoot! I started about the same time as you. It was the summer of 1999 and I was pregnant with Harry. We got the books for Kile to read to my belly. We continued on that Fall after Azkaban was released and he read to Harry while he nursed at night before going to sleep. A year later, we did the same with book 4 (I remember buying that at Target the day it was released). Until book 5, I’d never actually read one of those books the first time through myself. LOL! Book 3 is my favorite, followed closely by book 6. And I will SO cry when I finish it, if just because that means it’s all over.

  23. I love HP too. Although you say 5 is your least favorite, it is my favorite.

    I am 37 weeks pregnant and I wonder if I will still be pregnant when I get to read the last book. I can’t wait for friday!

  24. I get it completely. You have inspired me to explain my own obsession with all things Harry Potter. It will have to wait until the morning because I have had an extremely shitty day at work.

    But yeah, I totally get it. And I will be waiting in line like everyone else(except you, lucky betch!) for my copy. Which I will then be able to go home and DEVOUR because I am OFF the next day!! WOOT-WOOT!

    Can’t wait to discuss it with y’all!

  25. This was an awesome post. Just awesome. I loved that Harry and everyone has been there for you. The books are like little cocoons that wrap you up nice and tight. I am so excited to get that book.

  26. oh, girl……….you suck for making me cry first thing in the morning at work.

    that is possibly one of my favorite posts ever, ever, EVER! i have no words for my mounting excitement over not only seeing you, stace, and the families…..but also for holding book 7 in my hand. you so beautifully captured what those books have meant to me, too….with different circumstances of course….but the feelings being the same. it’s what dumbledore always said…….love is the most powerful.

    and i love you girl….and can’t wait to experience this last chapter w/ you one more time……it couldn’t be any other way.

    i’ll see you in 2 days!!! 🙂

  27. zoot, i love you for understanding how a book (or series of them) can mean so much to a person. when i try to explain why i love harry potter so much, it doesn’t come out right, but after reading your post, i think that like you the books remind me of different times in my life. they’ve always brought me comfort.

    and my husband and i read them out loud to each other, so it’s going to be a LONG media ban for me! i’m tempted to just take the book and read it quickly myself first, but i feel that we must bring this to a close in the same way we started it.

  28. My husband is a manager at a major chain bookstore….I worked there myself in the past. That being said, I’m surprised to see a photo of the actual boxes….Jo would be fuming. In the past, and this release is certainly no exception….store employees had to sign on pain of death swearing that they would not look at the boxes, talk to the boxes, talk about the boxes, stand near the boxes and certainly never photograph the boxes. Of course, this only encourages us to do all those things. My darling husband is photographing his boxes for me tonight….photo to be posted soon!

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