I'd kind of been struggling as to what to post as my first post on my new site. Should it be a statement of intention? Maybe, but every time I do that, I feel like I fail to live up to that statement. Then I was reminded ('cause, the Internet) that it was the 20th Anniversary of the first publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (that's right, PHILOSOPHER, not Sorcerer, silly Americans), and figured that it was the perfect thing to reflect on, 'cause I have a kind of odd but (hopefully) charming story about becoming a Harry Potter fan.
When I first heard about Harry Potter, it was from my friend Reen. We were 15 and having a sleepover at my house. Now, it's important to note that, at the time, I considered her love of Jane Austen books to be odd (how foolish young Andrea was) and therefore believed her taste in books to be slightly questionable.
She began to tell me about this book that she was reading, about this kid and the wizard school he goes to. The thing I remember most vividly was her trying to explain Quidditch to me. I don't know why she thought that sport would be the way to convince me to read these books, but I remember becoming more and more skeptical as words like 'quaffle,' 'snitch' and 'bludger' escaped her mouth. Sure, wizards who play sports on brooms, right Reen... *cue fifteen-year-old eyeroll*. I thought it all sounded so dumb and therefore resolutely declared I would never read 'those wizard books'.
Cut to a year later. My aunt and my two cousins from Victoria were visiting us up in the frozen north for Spring Break. My cousins are 10 and 12 years younger than me, and they were reading Harry Potter. I remembered the books from when Reen tried to convince me, and the fact that these little kids were reading them (or possibly having it read to them) was clear proof that these were dumb kids books I don't know why they brought all three of the books that were published with them, but they did.
Thank god they did.
A few days into their stay, out of the kind of curiousity that you can't help when you see other people so excited about something, I picked up the first book and read the inside flap. And then the first chapter. J.K. Rowling had hooked me, like so many others, with her story of the neglected boy from under the stairs who discovered he was part of a great big invisible world. Before they went back to Victoria I'd finished not only Philosopher's Stone, but Chamber of Secrets and Prisoner of Azkaban as well.
By the summer that The Order of the Phoenix was released I was completely hooked. I was working at a summer camp in the Shuswap. I had my pre-ordered copy sent to the office. I lived in fear that it wouldn't arrive on the day it was supposed to, seeing as we were in a tiny little town in the middle of BC. Thankfully my copy DID arrive in time, 'cause my friend Shannon bought a copy and we were (for reasons I can't rightfully explain) going to have a 'race' and see who could finish first. We both were working long days in the smokin' hot heat of a Shuswap summer, but would race back to our little common room and read whenever we had a chance. I honestly can't remember who 'won', but having someone reading that book at the same time was great for the 'can you believe that?' and 'how do you think this?' kind of questions that would inevitably come up.
I was lucky enough to work at a Coles bookstore when I was in university and got to work the midnight launch for The Half-Blood Prince. We all dressed up, I knit house scarves for the whole staff, we had owls from a local bird sanctuary, crafts, games, the whole nine yards. I got my copy of book 6 at midnight like everyone else, but was one of the lucky ones that didn't have to work the next day, which meant I could stay up and read the book when I got home.
And I did.
By the time I got to Snape killing Dumbledore I'd been awake for more hours than I could remember and had consumed a fair amount of coffee. I was sure I'd hallucinated it. That couldn't possibly have happened could it? There was NO way that could have happened. I put the book down. I paced. I went outside into the early morning air and paced a little more, contemplating all the ways I could've misread what I thought I'd just read. Then I came back and sat down and re-read the passage, and then the tears began. I don't cry a lot when I read. But Rowling got me, I was overtired and over-caffeinated, so that may have contributed to it, but she got me nonetheless.
When Deathly Hallows was released in 2007, I was 23, I was supposedly an adult. I'd graduated from university with my fancy film studies degree, and instead of launching myself into the world, I'd moved back home. Just as I was finishing up my degree, far away from home, my father was diagnosed with cancer and passed away a few months later. That first year was HARD. Anyone who's lost not only a parent, but any loved one, will tell you that all those 'firsts', Father's Day, birthday, Christmas, etc, after you lose them are the worst.
So to say that when I opened up my copy of Deathly Hallows on July 21, 2007 the sting of my his death was still sharp, is a bit of an understatement. The first 'anniversary' of his passing was only days away, and I was looking forward to escaping into the world of Harry Potter one last time. Unsurprisingly, Rowling got me again.
This book, and it's themes of death, grief, power and strength hit right to the core of me, 'remedying' me in ways that I don't think I quite understood at the time. Harry fearing and confronting death, and his talk with Dumbledore at King's Cross are things that still resonate with me almost 10 years later.
It's been a long, wonderful journey from refusing to read those 'dumb wizard books' to eagerly anticipating each release and proudly wearing my Gryffindor colours, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Thank you J.K. Rowling, and happy anniversary Harry.