As a freshman in high school, I was having a difficult time in my Physics class. And then, to top it off, the only extra credit questions on our tests were based on a new book series about witches and wizards and a school with a disgusting-sounding name - Hogwarts?! I resented my teacher putting these questions on the test because it was unfair advantage. So I protested for the first two tests. But I needed those extra credit points. So one Saturday, I went to Bookland (a now closed independent bookstore in Brunswick, Maine) and picked up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. I'll never forget the feeling of reading that first chapter. It grabbed me. Hook, line, and sinker. It was like when Harry was sucked into Tom Riddle's diary. Only this kind of literary gravity was good.
High school was not an easy time for me (as I am sure it was not for many) and the Harry Potter series became a place of escape. A safe, accepting haven. The characters felt like friends, family even. And I, as I am sure many girls did, identified with Hermione Granger, from the bushy brown hair to her affinity for books and scholastic excellence. For every book launch (except the last one), I dressed up as Hermione for the release party at a local independent bookstore where I worked during high school and college. For The Order of the Phoenix, we even created a sorting hat and made House badges for kids (and adults) to be sorted into Houses. For The Half Blood Prince, my coworker, Jim, the spitting image of Ollivander, dressed up like the wandmaker and whittled wands for all the bookstore staff. Mine was cherry and filled with sand from Egypt. I still have it to this day.
The first film came out during my junior year in high school. I remember the thrill of hearing those first notes of John Williams' classic soundtrack (hands down the superior composer of the series). I had friends who refused, still refuse, to see the movies because they wanted to preserve their original image of the characters. I was worried about that myself, but have long learned to separate them. I thought the films were impeccably made and the three of them - Dan, Emma, and Rupert - I've loved watching them grow up.
I saw the fourth film in England. The coolest. I brushed by Rupert Grint at customs in Heathrow. I visited many of the locations across England (including Oxford University) used for the films.
I kept every ticket stub from every film.
I planned my latest Maine trip around the fact that I wanted to see the final film with my family. It's tradition. Seeing this last film (yes, I saw it twice last week), I found myself choked with the sentiment of how much this story - books and films - has meant to my life. And as for the final scene, with the return of John Williams' music, forget it. I was a goner. Tears, choked up, wrought with the shear power of this world and the indelible mark it has had on my experience.
So as others have lately written, thank you, Ms. Rowling, for delivering such magic and the belief in ourselves to express the worlds we create every day in our minds. And for allowing us to believe that these worlds are indeed real and valuable and might be enjoyed by millions if we only take that first step of putting pen to paper.