Harry Potter and the End of Our Childhood

15 July 2011
I wonder if years from now my children will pick up the covers of the books that defined my youth. The series that, as a 9- year old grasping the concept of daring to be different, I had initially perceived to be a fad, one in which I had no desire to follow through with. It was Mrs. Herman, my third grade teacher, who squashed that notion when she made the decision to read the book to our third grade class, a step that brought Harry Potter to the forefront of my childhood.

I’ve since followed Harry from print to film, from his days as a nervous wizard entering Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, to his final battle against the man, the enemy that shaped Harry’s life and the wizarding community’s existence. My generation has grown up with Harry. We’re the generation that jokes (yet internally, truly prays) for a letter of acceptance to Hogwarts among the college applications stacked on the kitchen counter. We’re the ones who pre- ordered our copies so that by midnight of the book’s release, we’d don the wizarding hat, grab the essentials: wand, robe and, being the elementary/ middle school students we were, the parentals for a ride to the bookstore down the street. And we’re the ones who actually had to wait the full year in between each Harry Potter book, eager to continue the fantasy saga. It was the first time 700+ pages didn’t seem daunting and reading became cool. It, in fact, became a challenge among us to complete the book in three, maybe four days. I recall my brother turning 9 and deciding he too wanted a share in Harry’s world. The two of us switched back and forth as to who could the read the novel first... he read the fourth one first, I read the fifth one first. I cheekily had arranged it so that by the last book, I would be first.

My first book, the only copy I own in paperback, is in three pieces, bound together by scotch tape. I’ve been joking for years that it’s like Harry’s scotch tape bound glasses he wore back in book one. I’ve reread each book so many times... it’s no wonder the paperback copy is barely holding it together.

My generation has such a bond with the books' characters. But of course we do, it’s been ten years. My favorite character? I’m not sure. Mrs. Weasly perhaps... she’s the novel’s warm, grandmother- like figure, a woman set steady in her morals, a loyal wife for her husband and a caring mother for the children in her life. Or maybe Dobby. His honesty, his love, his zest. It’s not really fair, when all things considered, that Harry gets the title of each book. Because there’s no way Harry would have gotten to the place he is now without the influence of the characters around him.

The Australian premier of the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II movie (which, to the benefit of the American students abroad, came out two days before the showing in the states) brought with it a mix of excitement among the hint of nerves. In Judaism, a bat mitzvah is your passage into adulthood. In real life, the opening of the final Harry Potter movie makes you adult. And I wasn’t sure I was ready to finally take that step.

Tears swelled up even before the doors to the theatre opened. Initially, it was the backdrop poster that spurred the lump in my throat. And then it was the Luna’s and Dobby’s and Harry’s and Hogwart’s school girls standing in the theater’s waiting area that caused the tears to well up. I eventually made it through the cardboard Platform 9 and ¾s to get to the entrance into the room, the room where my childhood would soon be over.

130 minutes later, the credits rolled and I bawled. Harry defeated Voldemort. Graduated Hogwarts. Married Ginny. Had children. And don’t give me the WHAT you ruined the ending look... There’s no such thing as a Harry Potter spoiler anymore. Harry Potter, along with the grasps I had had on my childhood, was officially over. 

Harry Potter ended the summer my childhood too ended. It’s first time I’ve traded in my summer at camp for a trip across the world. It’s been my first time testing the professional side of life. And it's been the first summer I've finally come to understand that I have only two years left of being a full time student, a daughter still dependent on her parents, a girl not ready to become an adult.

Harry Potter was never just a book. He was ten years of our lives, a world wide revolution that left a mark on my generation. He was a lesson for confronting the realities of life. He is a hero, an icon we've grown up loving. Harry's tale may have come to a close, but I believe his legacy lives on forever. 

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