by Kelsey Matzen
June 29, 1997. A 32 year-old single mother, living on welfare, publishes a magic-based fantasy novel, titled Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
2003. For the first time, I picked up the first Harry Potter novel and flipped open to the first page.
July 2011. I sat in a small Berkeley movie theater, gripping my cloth armrests, with tears rolling out of my eyes as I watched Harry embark on his last adventure.
I arrived at the movie theater with the lowest of expectations. Multiple directors and screenwriters had already botched my favorite story, and I knew this would be the same.
Some small part of me, though, remained hopeful. Perhaps, I rationalized, since this was the epic conclusion to a decade of anticipation, it would somehow be more amazing.
But throughout the entire movie, as I grew more disappointed, I criticized the whole thing, frequently interrupting the story to make a multitude of snarky comments to my sister:
“Why does everything Voldemort do have to be stupid?”
“Oh hey, of course Neville isn’t as hard-core as he’s supposed to be.”
“Ah yes, it’s that part of the story where Harry pushes Voldemort into the Hogwarts canyon, and then they fly around locked together in a tight embrace.”
“Why is Voldemort hiding in a boathouse? Since when has Hogwarts had a boathouse? Why would wizards want to canoe?”
Even as I listened to the familiar dialogue and story line, I couldn’t recognize this as my favorite story.
Despite this, I found myself tearing up as the end neared.
My sadness in the movie correlated with my sadness in the book: my heart fell when Fred Weasley died, and by the time Harry Potter had killed Voldemort and ended the ongoing war, I was crying along with the rest of the audience.
I’ve come to the realization that the movie wasn’t what upset me.
No, it was the knowledge that it was over. The series that I had fallen in love with, that had seemed to last forever, that had kept me in constant anticipation as I counted down the days to whatever new book or movie was coming out, had ended.
Poof. It was done.
There would be no more magical adventures that my inner child could get lost in.
Harry Potter is more than just a book for me; it carried me through my childhood. From the moment I opened the first novel, my eight year-old mind ablaze with curiosity, I was enthralled.
All I read was Harry Potter. I would finish the most recent one, and then just turn right back to the first one. All other books were neglected; they failed to invoke the same kind of interest that Harry Potter did.
If I could show my ardent devotion and knowledge of this wizarding world, I would be allowed access to it. Harry and his friends became as familiar to me as family.
Meanwhile, as I was burying myself within this fantasy world, the real world was growing increasingly stressful.
My parents were going through a messy divorce; my mother was on a sharp downward spiral, and my dad informed me that we were moving at the end of the year, leaving behind my best friend.
Before I got my hands on the Harry Potter books, I would find myself sobbing in the middle of class.
Harry Potter saved my childhood; its beautiful story enveloped me, and when I was voraciously tearing through the books, I found that all those problems in real life didn’t really bother me anymore.
The end of Harry Potter was much like the end of my childhood—the end of all those days laying around, contemplating the next part of the series.
Yet, even though it’s all over, I can take comfort in the knowledge that when life gets too stressful, when the pressure piles too high, I can always go back to Harry Potter, returning to a time when I would sit near my front door, book open in my lap, waiting for my owl to come.