Book Review · Film

Hogwarts, a Personal History

In the fall of 2001, I had never heard of the wizard named Harry Potter. I was nineteen—a sophomore at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. I lived on South Green on the second floor of O’Bleness Hall. My roommate was Pam Prinz, a woman who could always make me laugh.

Do you even recognize the girl I was back then?
First quarter of my sophomore year was moving along slowly, probably because I was miserable my sophomore year. I was a theater major at the time; it didn’t take long for me to realize that being a theater major was akin to paying people to make you feel bad about yourself. I would change to Creative Writing the last quarter of my sophomore year, and I would discover my purpose in life. But that was still months away.

As we prepared to head home for Ohio University’s six-week Thanksgiving/Christmas break, I remember Pam was really excited about a new movie about to open in theaters: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I’d never heard of Harry Potter; I was a Lord of the Rings girl, and no one could ever compare to my Tolkien. But knowing how fragile I was at the time—and knowing me quite well in general—Pam shoved a book under my nose and told me to read it over break.

The book looked exciting. It was light in my hands and a bit tattered around the edges from too many readings. An awkward teenage boy on a flying broomstick lingered center stage, and although the cover was filled with imagery, most of it didn’t make any sense to someone who’d never heard of Harry Potter, let alone JK Rowling.

I opened the book to Chapter One … “Mr. And Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense …”

I liked the tone—light, funny, interesting. I liked the idea: some kid who’s a wizard but doesn’t know he’s a wizard. I particularly liked the world of magic, and soon I would find I loved the world of Hogwarts. It didn’t take me long to finish Harry Potter, Book 1. Once I started, I couldn’t put it down. I saw the movie over Christmas break, and well, I was done for.

The good news? This JK Rowling chick had been writing Harry Potter books since 1997! I had catching up to do! I had to read Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Then, I had to read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Then, I had to … wait. And wait. Until July 30, 2002, when I stood in line to buy Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (my favorite) at midnight. For every book, there was another movie, and I often stood in line to see the movies at midnight, too. I was hooked, gone, addicted.

Sophomore year at Ohio University, Harry Potter saved me. He allowed me to escape the misery that was being a theater major. I would have given just about anything to be accepted into the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I still would, I suppose, although I guess I would be a professor by now, wouldn’t I?

The Harry Potter kids, circa 2001.
In a little over twelve hours, I will sit in a darkened theater and watch the final installment of the Harry Potter movies. The book series ended years ago; now, finally, the movies have caught up. Tonight represents the end of a ten-year love affair.

I’m currently re-reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and as enthralled as I was back in 2001, I am now completely crushed. I can barely read the words without getting teary-eyed. I remember that naïve eleven-year-old Harry back in Book 1 who didn’t know about magic. He didn’t know about Hogwarts, and he certainly didn’t know that Book 1 was the beginning of a tragic series of events that would eventually steal most of the people he would come to love. He was so innocent back then, and in 2001, I guess I was, too.

As Harry’s years at Hogwarts passed, I became a junior at Ohio University. Then, I was a senior. Then, I graduated. Now, I’m twenty-nine. I’m a writer. I’m marrying Prince Charming. And finally, Harry is graduating, too.

In regards to his final day of shooting Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Daniel Radcliffe said: “They came up and said, ‘How are you feeling? How are you doing?’ And I couldn’t find any words, and I said, ‘I just want you to know, I’ve had a really nice time.’”

And I’m crying again …

I’m ready for the final film. It had to come sometime, and tonight is the night. However, I will always remember that sad nineteen-year-old girl, sitting on the floor of her dorm room, waiting to go home for the holidays … and how she has been saved many times by a kid named Harry and the world known as Hogwarts. Thank you, JK. And thank you, Mr. Harry Potter.

The Harry Potter kids ... er ... adults, circa 2011.

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