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July 31, 2014

Happy Birthday Harry Potter!


As a birthday tribute to the boy who lived, I made a "top five" list of my favorite personal Harry Potter moments. It's not quite one of Mrs. Weasley's or a bag of chocolate frogs, but I think he'd appreciate it. Hope you're all having fun celebrating, today!

1) Getting the very last book, HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS. My best friend, Steven, and I went to “Hogwarts” Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts and dutifully dressed as Harry Potter and Professor Trelawny, respectively (I owned enough flowy scarves and mildly eccentric items to pull it off). For some reason, Steven immediately wanted to switch glasses --- something was wrong with his, and  he claimed that it was way more important for Harry to be properly bespectacled than the weird divination teacher. I begrudgingly admitted he had a point and lent him my glasses, but not without a fair amount of eye-rolls and disgruntled noises. Still though, I love the idea of 20 year olds fighting over costume accessories in a completely unironic way.

Later that night, after collecting our precious copies of HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS at the midnight book party at the Harvard Coop bookstore, Steven and I scrambled to his parents’ friends’ house nearby --- he had promised to cat-sit. This was the perfect setting to dive into the long-awaited conclusion of Harry Potter --- just us and a couple of cats. We took turns reading the first chapter out loud to each other, but then we saved the rest for the next day…we needed something to look forward to.

2) Waiting not-so-patiently to read HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE. When the fourth Harry Potter book came out, I was at summer camp. This was a disaster. Why? Because most parents sent their kids copies of the book in packages, and about three quarters of my fellow campers were buried behind that 752-page tome. Not my parents, though. They believed that 1) it’s impossible to truly appreciate the joys that are friendship bracelets and swimming lessons if your nose is buried in a book as addictive as HARRY POTTER and 2) there is no way I’d enjoy the book I’d been anticipating for literally two years if I was distracted by chants of “Choco Tacos!” in the dining hall or being pelted with dodgeballs on the field. Both of these reasons rang with truth, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t pure torture.

Needless to say, as soon as we completed the two-and-a-half hour ride home from rural Maine to Boston at the end of July, I ran out of the car mid-sentence (not bothering to get my suitcase out of the trunk), raced to my room, and flopped onto my bed, where HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE was waiting. Probably the best homecoming, ever.

3) Attending the midnight movie screening for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. We were allowed to enter the theater at 10pm, and it was mayhem in the very best way. A girl dressed as a witch started reading the book out loud, and others watched Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 on their iPads. A teenager dressed as Harry dueled a middle-aged man dressed as Lord Voldemort while the audience cheered, and another Harry chased a girl dressed as the Golden Snitch around the theater --- luckily there weren't any Bludgers. Lastly, a group stood in front of the movie screen and performed an epic rendition of the YouTube HARRY POTTER spoof, Potter Puppet Pals: The Mysterious Ticking Noise (it may be outdated, but if you haven’t seen this, you must). While I remember enjoying the movie overall, it was definitely the collective hype that stuck with me far longer.

4) The joy of it being “your turn” to read the books. Although all of the Harry Potter books technically belonged to me, my mom and sister were also obsessed with the series. Therefore, when a new book came out, we had to make a schedule: we’d each get the book for two hours at a time. There was literally no feeling in the world like hearing the invasive beep of the microwave timer --- the signal that I could snatch the book out of my sister’s hands and spend a delightful couple of hours getting lost in Hogwarts while lying on the sun-soaked sofa and eating mint chocolate chip ice cream out of a mug. To this day, that might be my definition of contentment.

5) Introducing to the books to my dad. Unlike the rest of my family, my dad was not a Harry Potter fan. He loved any kind of nonfiction  --- history, politics, science --- but a kids book about wizards? No thank you. No matter how hard the rest of us tried to convince him, he wouldn’t even read a page. It was only in 2010, when all seven books had already been sitting snugly on my bookshelf for years,that something changed. I was living at home for a few months, and my mom told my dad, “Why not try just one chapter? --- if you don’t like it, you can stop.”

For whatever reason, my dad consented on this earth-shattering afternoon. And to no one’s surprise, he didn’t stop. He read all seven in a row (a totally different reading experience than I had), and I’d periodically run into his room and ask him to tell me what was happening, or read aloud whatever line he was on. It had been so long since I’d read any of the Harry Potter books with fresh eyes, and it was amazing to vicariously do so through someone else --- especially when that “someone else” was a lovable, highly intellectual, middle-aged history nerd who couldn’t get enough of them, either.