15 July 2014

Growing Up with Harry Potter

Note: I originally published a version of this post as"Don't Believe that Magic Can Die: 5 Years After Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" on The Sparrow Tree Square Blog on July 20, 2012. I'm moving it here today, July 15, 2014, on the third anniversary of the release of the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 film.

On July 21, 2007, the UPS truck was late. Typically our Saturday deliveries come rather early in the day, around ten or eleven o'clock in the morning, but this particular Saturday was different. This particular Saturday was the day that the final installment of J. K. Rowling's seven-part Harry Potter saga was released, and the UPS truck was late due to the sheer volume of Amazon and Barnes and Noble deliveries being made in our neighborhood and across the country. As I waited through the afternoon and into the early evening for the truck to arrive, I silently cursed the people whose orders of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows were clogging up the system--even though I myself fell into that very category.

I have, quite literally, grown up with Harry Potter. I was eleven years old in 2001, the same age as Harry in the film version of Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone that premiered that year. In 2007 I was seventeen, the same age Harry turns in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I received the first three books as a Christmas present from an aunt when I was nine and took turns sharing books four, five, and six with my sister on their respective release days. We never reserved copies or ordered them online, since my dad was always able to find stacks of them in places like Walmart and CVS while hundreds of people waited in line to pick up their pre-ordered copies from the local bookstores.

However, when the seventh book became available for pre-order in the spring of 2007, I decided not to take any chances with big box stores and pharmacies. I had recently switched from buying most of my books at Borders to ordering them online anyway, and Amazon was guaranteeing July 21 delivery in a commemorative box. I'd be sure to get a copy if I pre-ordered, I reasoned, and I'd have a commemorative box to boot! It seemed like the obvious way to go.

As I waited and waited on July 21 for my book to arrive in its special packaging, I began to regret my decision. My father offered to check the usual stores so I could get my hands on a copy sooner, but I had gotten 40% off of the cover price by ordering from Amazon and didn't want to pay full-price for a copy just because UPS was a little sluggish. Instead I waited, studiously avoiding online spoilers and jumping at every little sound that could possibly be a truck pulling up or a knock at the door.

Around dinnertime I had to concede that it seemed unlikely that my copy of Deathly Hallows was going to show up anytime soon, so I agreed to go out to eat with my family. We settled on a little Mexican restaurant that we all enjoyed, and around five or six I followed my parents out the door. And lo and behold, there on the step sat my Amazon delivery, in its red-and-white commemorative box.

At this point I was too hungry to read, so I tore open the box and toted the book with me to the restaurant. I skimmed the first pages as we waited for our food, sharing a few quotes aloud with my family. When we got back home, I immediately began reading and, with a few breaks for food and sleep, finished either the next day or the day after. I'm not sure what happened to the commemorative box, but I don't have it anymore.

It's now been over five years since the final Harry Potter book was released, and three since the final film adaptation premiered. In the intervening time, I've found myself becoming increasingly critical of the themes and writing quality of the books, especially after rereading Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone for the first time in a decade last summer. But despite the issues I have with the series, Harry Potter was a big part of my childhood and adolescence and I can't help but look back fondly at the years when new books and movies were being released. Last autumn I viewed all eight Potter films in a row, and as I watched Harry, Ron, and Hermione grow up it felt almost like I was watching myself grow up with them.

So, today I pay tribute to the literary, cinematic, and cultural phenomenon that is the Harry Potter series. A song written for the fourth movie states, "Don't believe that magic can die," and half a decade after the last book was released I hope that future generations can experience the same kind of magic I did when I first took my journey to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry:

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