Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 – The End of the Journey?

“I think you people are over-reacting about this Harry Potter thing.”

I don’ t know how many times now I’ve seen a quote like that pop up. Lately, they’re everywhere. Some non-fan dogging on the rest of us for being saddened by the end of something we considered great and meaningful.

I intended to review the movie, as I’ve always done. To say what I thought without giving away the details. Give you my feelings as a book-fan and again as a movie-goer. I’m not going to do that now.

Chances are that if you’ve read the book, you’ll likely love that version more than the movie version. That’s how it tends to be for a book-turned-movie. You’ll have a mile long list of details that you are furious they cut from the movie, things you can’t believe they changed because they were such trivial things: why did Petunia and Dudley have to become brunettes in the movie when they were clearly blondes in the books? And you’ll have your list of things that were included in the film but that you felt were handled horribly. I imagine you’ll have an equally long list of all the things you felt they did right and that you were thrilled made it into the films.

If you’ve never read the books, however, and you’re a movie fan – then the chances are you’ll have your own opinion of the quality of the story. You’ll claim this or that was excellent and couldn’t possibly have been handled as well on paper, that it’s much too visual to be  brought to life without special effects. Some of you may even have decided to read the books, FINALLY, after having seen the last Harry Potter.

But I’m not going to give you my lists. Instead…I’m going to tell a story. I’m going to try to give you an idea of how important Harry Potter can be to someone, an explanation as to why we aren’t over-reacting, why it’s perfectly acceptable that we’re so sad to see it end.

So…here we go:

When I entered second grade, I was the “new kid”.  I had moved from a city school to a rural school. I was picked on and had no friends. And I had trouble reading. I didn’t seem to have the level of comprehension that other kids had. I could read the words but I couldn’t always explain what I’d read. The words were disjointed things, independent from one another – like beads lined up on a table – the other kids had twine to string their beads together, but I didn’t.

I worked hard to catch up. I learned that the teachers trying to help me were actually hindering me. “Slow down…sound it out…” The slower I went, the less I comprehended. It wasn’t until I discovered that reading quickly helped the words stick together. My twine to string those beads together was speed. The faster I read, the quicker my mind linked those independent words together and I could finally see the bigger picture. I finally “heard” whole sentences and concepts instead of plain words said one after another.

From this point on, I was unstoppable. I became the top reader in my 3rd grade class. We had a program called Accelerated Reader, if you’ve never heard of it, it’s simply this: each book had a test worth so many points, the harder the book – the harder the test – and the more points it was worth. By the end of 3rd grade, I was reading at an 8th grade level. By the end of 8th grade, I was reading at the college level.

I read voraciously, but selectively, at the same time. I was a very bullied child. Making friends was very hard, keeping them was sometimes harder. I was the only daughter, so my brothers and their friends (“the guys”) often teamed up on me or excluded me. So, I read as a method of escape, in search of a sense of acceptance and belonging. Books were the ultimate playground for my overactive imagination.

All this being said, it should be expected that I had a large collection of books. My parents had always bought me books, even before I cared to read them. We had books everywhere growing up and story time was mandatory before bed – by order of us kids. After May 3rd, 1999, the tornado that I’ve mentioned in anniversary posts, I lost everything I ever owned; this included my books.

You may be thinking, so what? They’re just books? Buy new ones.

But bear with me, if you will.

I lost neighbors in addition to possessions. While I may not have been close to these people, their loss still affected me. My eyes were opened to a new reality, one in which I very easily could have lost family members in the blink of an eye, one in which I, myself, could have lost my life. I watched the children of these families forced to cope with the loss of parents, young parents forced to cope with the loss of infant children…I watched children, friends of the family, struggling for their lives – their parents unsure if they would ever wake again.

While it’s not really something I think I advertised to the world, I was understandably hurt and confused by all of this. I was temporarily living in a classroom in my high school, spending nights on an army cot beneath a donated quilt that a group of Amish women had made by hand specially for me, and I was wearing clothes that had belonged to another little girl somewhere else. I no longer had anything that felt like it was truly mine.

I fell into a slump of depression. I used anger as a weapon to keep that depression in check and to keep the tears at bay. I was dealing with guilt – having been asked by reporters if I felt it was fair that I had survived while my neighbors had died – and I was angry that I was feeling sorry for myself when I had survived and they didn’t. I felt I had no right to wallow in self-pity. But I was depressed and I couldn’t feel happiness at that point in time, so all I was left with was sadness or anger: I felt sadness was a weakness, so I chose anger.

Later, when we had a new house, and I was slowly collecting new possessions – clothes of my own, sheets that I had picked out, shoes that weren’t mud-stained and worn, stuffed animals to sleep with…It was then that people expected me to be myself again.

But the fact of the matter was that materialistic things no longer mattered to me. Before the tornado, I had a closet full of 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzles, 3D puzzles, etc.- I loved puzzles and I always had one in progress. People kept trying to give me puzzles or convince me to buy new ones. I haven’t touched a puzzle since.

People encouraged me to start writing stories again, as I had done so often before. I didn’t want to write anymore. I didn’t care about those pretend worlds. It was ridiculous to live in fiction. For these very reasons, I no longer cared about reading either. Books no longer seemed the magical things of my childhood. My imagination had left me. I just didn’t care about much anymore.

For Christmas of 99′, my mother bought me Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I don’t know if she did it just because it was a growing fad and everyone was talking about it or if she saw a change in me. Maybe I hid it well, maybe I didn’t.

I remember throwing the book in the closet. I wasn’t interested. Weeks later, I came across it while cleaning  and must’ve been in a particularly good mood because I opened the book and read the first page. I knew this was what absolutely everyone was talking about, but I didn’t know what the big deal was. My old 3rd grade teacher had liked it so much, she was reading it to her whole class. So I began reading about a small boy who lived on Privet Drive.

I felt like I could relate to him in some small way. Though Harry was bullied by his family and I  had a family that loved me, I was still bullied at school – so I could understand how it felt. He had few real belongings of his own and I’d just lost everything.

So I read a few more pages…

Then we met Hermione and GOD, was she annoying at first: Little Miss Know-it-all. But the more I read, the more I realized how little I had in common with Harry. I was nothing like him. Unfortunately for me, I was much more like Hermione. I’d always gotten straight A’s (my high school run-ins with Algebra changed that), the teachers loved me, students thought I was a teacher’s pet and hated me, I read absolutely everything I could, I was always the first to finish my tests, the first to raise my hand to answer questions, I didn’t dare to break the rules…I have brown bushy hair, brown eyes, and my friends and brothers wouldn’t hesitate to say I was bossy.

It was agony. Who wanted to be like the insufferable Hermione Granger?

Well, I was much more pleased to be able to share these things with her as I got further into the book. And then further into the series.

I read Harry Potter throughout high school. I read each book multiple times. The Sorcerer’s Stone reintroduced me to reading. We had a sort of “restricted section” in my high school library where they kept the more mature and possibly violent material and I was one of the few 9th graders who was allowed full access. I returned constantly. The Librarian began to challenge me. “Here’s The Mists of Avalon, it’s 1,000 pages long. Are you up for it?” Of course I was and it was an excellent book.

The point is…Harry Potter saved me. It pulled me out of what might possibly have been considered a post-traumatic depression and it taught me not to give up on the things that I loved. It taught me not to take my anger out on my family and friends and instead, to deal with the things that were truly upsetting me. It taught me that even though something bad had happened to me and I managed to survive it – I shouldn’t feel guilty for those who didn’t survive it. I hadn’t been responsible for their deaths. I wasn’t to blame for any of it.

There are those of you who say that the Harry Potter fans are over-reacting that the journey has come to an end. But I want to just say this to you…you have no idea how J.K. Rowling has touched these people. You have no idea what her books have pulled them through.

If you saw me crying like a baby in the theatre during the Deathly Hallows Part 2 – you would never know that those tears are filled with gratitude.You would never know that the magical world of Harry Potter pulled my inner child out of a tin culvert where I’d left it after surviving one of the most destructive tornadoes ever and led it back to me. I began reading and writing again. I made it through college, still reading and re-reading the Harry Potter series, and graduated with a degree in Professional Writing. My imagination, that I had so readily shut out after the tornado found its way back in through a door that J.K. Rowling opened with her story.

So, for the last 12 years of my life – I’ve found a sense of comfort in those books. There’s an unbelievable world of magic and wonder there – something that I temporarily lost. Every time I return to Hogwarts, I remember what it is to be a child again. My imagination runs absolutely wild with Harry Potter. The year before the tornado, my mother bought me a typewriter, and I spent hours tapping out a book of my own. It was my dream to be a published writer one day – the tornado destroyed that dream – or rather, took my ability to dream. It was only later after reading Harry Potter that I remembered that dream and how hard I had worked on it.

Don’t mock us when we applaud the actors in the movie theatre – we know they can’t hear us. We’re not idiots.

Don’t mock us when we get emotional over something that seems trivial to you – we’ve invested ourselves in this story for reasons you may not know or understand.

Don’t roll your eyes and get angry when we passionately defend Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling against casual dismissals or trivial insults – to us, it deserves to be protected because maybe…just maybe it’s saved us somehow.

Harry Potter has been with me for 12 years and now our journey together ends. I’ll always be able to go back and re-read the books and re-watch the movies, but that excitement, that anticipation for the unknown, it’s gone for good now. From here on, it’ll be more like returning to visit an old friend.

But one day…one day I’ll introduce my children to Harry Potter and they’ll get to experience that excitement and wonder for the first time, and I’ll get to experience something entirely new by extension.

 

 

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