all is well.

If you are a Harry Potter nerd, you will recognize the title of this post as the last sentence in the seventh and final J.K. Rowling novel.  Sigh.  I finished that book a few summers ago while I was visiting my Grandma and Grandpa at their house in Redding, and I vividly remember being wide awake at 3:30 in the morning, sobbing over the death of Dobby, in the butterfly-decorated room that used to be my Aunt Gail’s.  In the way that only Harry Potter can, I was captivated through the entire book, and pulled the closest I’ve ever been to an all-nighter to get to the end.  Of course, in true irony, the minute I read the last page, I realized the saga truly was over, and contritely wished I had read the book slower, to savor the final 700 pages of Harry’s magical world.

On Friday, I saw the final Harry Potter film installment with Les and Michelle.  I thought the movie was just fine; a fitting adaptation to the hefty, complicated book.  About halfway through the movie, where Professor McGonagall and the other teachers start casting their spells to protect Hogwarts (if Harry Potter was not such a popular and accepted phenomenon, I would sound like an incredible nerd here), I became choked with emotion as I realized that this wild ride, the immersion into every child’s magical fantasy, was really coming to an end.  The end of the book made me sad, yes, but the movie put the period on the last sentence of Harry Potter.  I started crying in the theater, and my friends looked at me, mystified, and reminded me that Jen, this part isn’t even sad!

I’ve read numerous articles this past week on the significance of Harry Potter to the world.  It seems that there is no aspect of life he hasn’t touched: reinvigorating childrens’ desire to read; teaching young adults the power of good versus evil; instilling the value of patience in fans waiting breathlessly for the release of each new book; offering a true success story in single mom J.K. Rowling’s rise to riches; pouring money into Hollywood’s emptying coffers.  But for me, Harry and I had a bond that was so natural, so easily made and striking in its longevity, that it is hard for me to imagine my childhood without it.  (Cheesey!  But I’m in a weepy mood, so bear with me.)

I did a book report in fifth grade on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, before anyone even knew it was a good story.  I was a voracious reader as a kid, and I commend my mom for supplying me with so many things to read.  (The humongous Redwall series kept me occupied for years.)  I think she was in the bookstore browsing, and saw that Harry was both in the kids section and 300+ pages, and brought it home without another thought as a means of confining me to the couch for at least a week.  Well, Harry cast his proverbial spell over me, and I was hooked.  Harry was every child’s alter-ego: an under-appreciated boy who can actually perform magic–AND is idolized by society!  Let’s review: 1. Nobody sees Harry’s true potential; 2. He’s a wizard; and 3. The whole world loves him.  If you were a 10 year old, semi-nerdy, super lazy kid, you wanted desperately to BE Harry Potter.  Man, he had it good.

The first three books came out very close together, so once I was into it, I had fodder for a while.  I think what really drew me to Harry was the parallel between our lives–yes, he was playing Quidditch and fighting evil wizards, but he was also developing crushes on girls, and taking final exams, and never turning homework in on time.  He was simply an ordinary boy in an extra-ordinary world.  When he first fell for Cho Chang (aka Cho the Ho in my book, as I despised her), I was crushing on some 7th grader in my middle school.  When he had to go to that formal dance and was stressing about his robes, I was shopping for my 8th grade promotion dance and worrying about my hair.  When he had to take his O.W.L exams, I was struggling through my AP classes.  I literally grew up with Harry, and I knew that I could always go home after a bad day and immerse myself in his world, while not completely losing touch with my own.

The Harry Potter experience, books and movies, is over now.  I will be re-reading Harry for the rest of my life, and I will most likely buy the outrageously expensive boxed film set when it comes out, but there’s nothing like cracking open a new Harry novel that you’ve been anxiously awaiting, knowing that the words are about to wrap themselves around you like an Invisibility Cloak and whisk you away to a world that is outwardly exactly the same as the one you just left, but with plenty more space for imagination.

I don’t think Harry Potter taught me patience, like all the over-analyzing opinion writers have been saying, nor do I think he left me with an overwhelming sense that good will always triumph over evil.  He did, however, cradle my childhood gently between the Sorcerer’s Stone and the Deathly Hallows, two bookends keeping precious memories of early love, long school days, good and bad sporting events secure within their pages.  I’m 23 now, and I still forget that “home” is no longer my house in Pleasanton; “summer” is no longer empty days filled with naps and sunbathing; “bills” are no longer the green things in my wallet, but things I am now responsible for paying.  It is too much of an exaggeration to say that with the end of Harry, I finally realize that it’s the end of my childhood, but that sentiment is definitely buried somewhere inside me.  I hurt that there is no other saga within which I can mindlessly lose myself, while at the same time caring so much about the characters and their destinies.  I ache for nights where it was just me and Harry up late, rebelliously reading past bedtime.  My waning imagination has guided me to books with little room for creativity, books that are all smarts and no fun, and I yearn for the playfulness and drama that were so prevalent in Harry Potter.

I feel like I am in mourning over the loss of my friend Harry, and I’m curious if any other people feel the same way.  The amount of emotion I felt during the movie caught me off guard, and I was surprised it was so much more tangible after the film rather than after the book.

So, to Harry, the Boy Who Lived: I thank you for feeding the fire of my imagination and for being there as I grew up.

les, me, michelle

 

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5 Responses

  1. This franchise was phenomenal! I’m sad it’s ending but I’m glad I finally saw the good guys win…Took a very long time to get here, including books+movies, but like you I enjoyed it 🙂

    I loved when P. McGonagall stood up for Harry and when the other Profs where casting their spells…that was a tear jerker..

    great post!

  2. Jen, I thought this was an amazing, thoughtful, and soulful blog on a topic that’s near and dear to me. Although I wasn’t in school at the time, Harry Potter was something I shared with my husband – a series we both truly enjoyed. He’d purchased the last book, but never got a chance to read it before he passed away. After he died, the audiobooks provided hours/days/weeks of entertainment while I ran or walked mile after mile through my grief. Only Harry allowed my escape from sadness. Then, Half Blood Prince gave me something to look forward to, then I and now II. I thought this last movie was the absolute best, but I felt the same sense of loss that you described. The release of the last movie is forcing some sense of closure (although I’ll be all over the boxed set, too). Harry kept me going for so long – I’m going to miss him.
    Thank you for this amazing reminder.

    • Susan, what a beautiful comment!! I appreciate your candidness in sharing your relationship with Harry–but it really is true that the books and movies mark an absolute PHASE in one’s life. In my post, I realized I didn’t attribute much to J.K. Rowling, but when you think of the talent it takes as a writer to craft a character who feels like a real friend, it is a testament to her vast skills.
      Someone at work asked if I, now without Harry, could get attached to a different series or another character. When I thought about, I decided that nothing else would be the same, mainly (for me, personally) because I am at such a different point in my life now than when I first started reading the series. It seems that that may be the case for you too–Harry was there when you really needed him, and without something to catapault you into the arms of a fictional character, your relationship will never move beyond literary entertainment.
      Thanks for reading 🙂

  3. I love your blog, Jen! By the way, I agree that J.K. Rowling has an amazing gift, not only for creating such wonderful characters, but infusing the stories with very clever things, like naming many characters after constellations, using Latin for spells, ad infinitum. However, most impressive is how she handles death and its effects upon the living, whether it was Dumbledore’s death and Harry, Lily’s and Snape, even Harry’s brief experience – simply brilliant!

  4. This is a beautiful bit of writing, Jen. I also felt poignancy after watching the last movie (I too thought it was done well) because I knew what it meant–the long, delightful, magical journey was OVER. I remember you and Lisa arguing over who was going to get the books first. I remember you staying up LATE. Were you Harry’s age when you started reading the first book? I think young people like yourself can hardly remember a time without Harry in their lives.

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