Friday, July 8, 2011

All Good Things...A Tribute of Epic Proportions

So this post is more for my own sake than anything else, and it will definitely be too long, detailed, and melodramatic, I'm warning you now. I was feeling just fine about everything until the media got involved and now I'm feeling emotional. That's right, I'm talking about the last Harry Potter movie coming out next week. Things like this:

It all ends?? It really hit me that THIS IS THE LAST TIME WE WILL SEE HARRY POTTER. Being the overly-emotional, sentimental fool that I am, I couldn't handle it and I broke. Now I'm blogging about it.

I've been fairly unattached the last couple years because I loved the books more than life itself at times, but the movies weren't quite so magical for me so while I saw them all, they've never been the personal journey that the books became for me.

My co-worker friend recently posted on her blog about how Harry Potter isn't just a series but that it defined a generation and I think that's true. I can also date a lot of events in my life by looking up release dates and thinking about where I was and what I was doing when I read/saw it. While I don't want to copy her (or maybe I do, she's pretty cool) I do want to put down a few Potter memories of my own, so if you will follow me down memory lane, we might just be in for a good trip...
(*Spoiler Alert*)
(*Like, a LOT of Spoilers*)
(*Also, I haven't read these since 2007, my info is probably vague/slightly incorrect*)

First Contact

The first time I had ever had real contact with Harry Potter that I remember was in sixth grade and my English teacher Ms. Meyers read it aloud to our class. I think the series must have been out for a little while but I was resisting the bandwagon urge because it was year 2000 and they were released in the US in like 1998. This is also a mystery to me because I have always loved weird, mysterious, magical, macabre things (much to the concern of my mother, I think) But for whatever reason I had never picked them up. This was also the year that the N'SYNCs album "No Strings Attached" (didn't have any bandwagon hang ups about that, apparently) came out because I remember she let us listen to it in that class as well. (Best English class ever or what?) I have vivid memories of listening to "Space Cowboy" and giggling. My teacher also pronounced Hermione as "Her-ME-own-knee" and then later as I read it on my own I thought it was pronounced "Her-me-OWN" as I had never seen the name before.


I have always been a bookworm, but I think this series marks my first instance of being fanatical about a book (or anything, really) and started me on my slippery slope of being too emotionally invested in fiction. Once I got started I couldn't stop. I think I got really pulled in after I read Prisoner of Azkaban (because let's face it, Chamber of Secrets isn't anyone's favorite) because I LOVE SIRIUS BLACK and there was such an air of mystery surrounding the black dog and impending doom of Harry having seen a Grim. I think this book just had a lot going for it, what with the magical creatures, trips to Hogsmeade, adventures into the Forbidden Forest, ghosts of the past coming back, time turning, dementors, thinking Sirius Black was going to show up and kill Harry at any moment, mysteries regarding Harry's parents generation. I could go on, but it really was a launching point into the more dark, intense, and fascinating later books. I was so happy that Harry finally had family, even if Sirius was in hiding.      

Goblet of Fire was cool and scary. We got to see the World Cup, new wizard cultures, Death Eaters in action, Ron being jealous over Hermione, freaking awesome Mad-Eye Moody, amazing feats of daring and bravery, and more live-action evil than we'd seen up to this point. I remember reading Goblet of Fire late into the night in my room in our house in East Wenatchee, Washington. My brother Steve was home, I think he must have been just back from his mission or something, I'm not sure why he was there. But it was very late at night and I was up reading and I remember hearing someone coming up the stairs and I quickly turned my light off for fear of it being my dad coming to yell at me for staying up so late. Looking back this was fairly irrational because my dad would not have been awake and school wasn't in so it didn't matter how late I stayed up. Turns out it had only been Steve and I went to bed for no reason.

I remember crying at the end of that book as the spirits came out of the wand and cheered for Harry. I can't handle it when people die, I turn into a blubbering mess, so for Harry to be able to get a glimpse of his parents and have their loving support did me in. And then the book ends, and Voldemort is back, like for real back and I don't know what is going to happen, I don't know the implications. It was as if I was riding in a car at top speeds and then suddenly the breaks were stamped on and everything came to a sudden, bone-jarring halt. What was going to happen??????????????????

The Wait

Book four came out in 2000 (according to wikipedia) and the next book didn't arrive until...2003! The wait, the long, awful, agonizing wait. Didn't she know? Hadn't she heard Voldemort was back and it was SO IMPORTANT to get the next book out? Unfortunately JK Rowling did not listen to my tortured pleas, but in 2003 Goblet of Fire made it's debut. F.I.N.A.L.L.Y. One thing that I will say about this particular trial is that it seemed to bring us all together. We, as Harry Potter Purists, had suffered as one and were stronger for it. There was a kinship amongst those who perished during the drought and rejoiced when the fruits finally were delivered. No one else could really understand what it was like. We scoffed at those who said "I'll just wait until they are all out and then I'll read them." It didn't make sense to us. Harry Potter was worth paying whatever the price if only to be able to read the next book the moment it came out. Anything else was just unthinkable.

It was during this gap that the movies began to be released. Seeing Hogwarts come to life before my very eyes was was, well, magical. Visually it was stunning and a joy to see this world that you had incorporated into your own become real. It was exciting. I remember when they were doing the initial casting and there was so much hype and speculation over who they would get, and how they would find people to fit these beloved characters. I remember watching trailers and getting goosebumps. I enjoyed the movies, but after the first one it was evident that while they would be fun, they were not the books. There were so many little details and extra story lines that could not be fit in, and as a Harry Potter Purist (HPP) the exclusion of these things, while to be expected, took away from the charm of the stories for me. Plus, back in the real world, VOLDEMORT WAS BACK and I still did not know what was going to happen next. I was not to be distracted, no matter how many flashy, partially faithful movies they threw at me. I wanted more story, and I wanted it now.

Look how little they are!!!!!

The Underlying Feeling of Doom

Despite the joy of having the next chapter of the saga available, Order of the Phoenix was a hard book. From the very start there was a cloud hanging over the entire thing, because it was a well known fact that an important character would die. Cedric Diggory, while a prominent character in the 4th book, was not important per se, and I don't think he was developed enough to trigger the sort of anxiety I was feeling as I began my journey through this book. His death had been shocking because it had been in real-time and he was completely innocent and unexpecting. It was stressful. But now. Now, she was going to take someone I loved and get rid of them forever. I couldn't handle it. But I also didn't want the surprise ruined. Once it was released I wouldn't go online, I wouldn't watch tv, I wouldn't let anyone speak the name Harry Potter in my presence until I had read it for myself. To hold the book in my hand and know that somewhere in those pages was possibly my worst nightmare come true was terrible. But that didn't stop me from opening it and getting started.

Order of the Phoenix was heavy and hard. For one thing, it was longer than the previous books. We knew right away someone was going to die, which cast a shadow on everything. And Harry was being monstrously obnoxious and mean the entire time. It's very hard to be stuck in the head of an unsympathetic character, and I hated him for most of the book. I could understand his frustration, but he did not need to blow up and yell every time someone made him unhappy. It was probably my least favorite of the more interesting later books. Potter Puppet Pals nails his behavior on the head in this skit:

Beyond Harry being impossible, did I mention that Voldemort is back? But nobody seems to believe Harry. (Hence some angst) Our first indicator is that dementors show up in Little Whinging, and we just know that life is going to be whack from now on. Hogwarts is no longer fun because Umbridge is running things, everyone is in a bad mood, and bad things are happening. Cue the children thinking they have to handle things by themselves and running off without telling anyone where they are going. Cue a bizarre trek through the Department of Mysteries and I am reading so fast trying to get to the end that I'm not comprehending the strange scenes being placed before me and it doesn't really matter. Cue expected attack by Death Eaters. And then it happens. Sirius is knocked through a flowy veil by freaking Bellatrix Lestrange. NBD, we'll just walk around to the other side and pick him up there. Except he's not there. Where is he? I don't know. All I know is that I love Sirius Black and he is now MIA. For the next four years I hold on to the belief that he is going to make a stunning reappearance and make us all feel silly for being worried. Because I love him.
Dumbledore stomps in and does his thing and saves the day but who cares, Sirius is gone/dead and it is all Harry's fault. I don't remember if that's what Harry thinks, but that's what I think. Stupid, moody, mean Harry had to run off and be a hero and he got one of my faves killed. Not a happy ending for me.

The Eve of the End

Half-Blood Prince is probably the most exciting for me for a lot of reasons. We only had to wait two dreadful years for this guy to come out. I remember all the speculation as to who the Half-Blood Prince was and what it meant in the time leading up to the release of the book. There was also rumored to be another death. A fun anecdote about this book:

I was not about to run the risk of spoilers for this one. I pre-ordered online so that it would be delivered to me the day it was released, and I could sit for hours and read without fear. I wouldn't even have to leave my home. But there was a kink in this plan. This was the day myself and a few friends were road tripping to Utah to visit our poor relocated friend Axel. 

Playing at Lagoon and not  reading Harry Potter
I think I either spent the night with one of them or was dropped off at Natasha's house, but as we pulled onto the highway and drove past the exit that would take you to my house, I imagined a lonely package sitting on my doorstep, waiting for me, calling for me. It hurt. A lot. On we went to Utah, and at some point stopped at a Wal-Mart, I'm not sure why. But what did they have at the front of the store? Two huge pallets FULL of the new Harry Potter book! I was tempted to buy it then and there and deal with the consequences later, but I knew my attention was needed elsewhere on this trip. This did not, however, stop me and a companion from each grabbing a copy and plopping down on the demo porch swing they had set up next to it. I mean, come on. It was basically an invitation to do just that. We were soon discovered and with only a chapter into it, were forcefully told to stop doing what we were doing and move on. Super lame. If anything we were providing free advertising.

Anyways, moving along. Half-Blood Prince is hard and enlightening and mysterious and funny. Lots of back story revealed, lots of fun relationship stuff, new magic, and lots of answers that only lead to more questions. Lots more bad things happen and even though you just have to know what happens next, you want to pace yourself because this is the last time ever you will read a Harry Potter book and be left hanging, waiting for the next one. Despite the years of frustration and waiting, the only thing worse is knowing that it will only happen once more and then it will all be over. It's like when you are about to move, and you're playing with friends and pretending like it's not all about to change but not too deep under the surface you know there won't be many more opportunities for times like this. There is a lot of "who is behind this" in this book, which has you stressed the entire time. And when you know who is behind it you have a bad case of "Did they really want it to be like this?" going around, questioning all the motives. The end of this one was the worst cliff-hanger yet. How will Harry get on without Dumbledore to guide him? Is Snape good or evil? WHO IS RAB? That second question haunted me for two years. I would spend hours online looking at hypothesis, trying to piece it together in my mind with my limited information. I still have a book mark with this exact logo from that time of mental unrest:

The Penultimate Moment, 10 Years In The Making

The time had finally come. Two years of wishing it was the next day and wishing it wouldn't come were over. I re-read the other six in preparation. But I was scared to read this book. Even though I was dying to find out how it ended, I was scared for the characters. Whatever happened in this book, it was final. If Sirius didn't take the hint and show his face in this one, then it really was all over for him. And I was concerned about Ron. I needed him to be alive and happy when this was all over. For him to be happy he needed Hermione. Harry I could take or leave, but I liked Ginny so I preferred him to live. And the twins. Oh how I loved those twins. They made me so happy. I took a quiz once and it determined that of all the Harry Potter characters, I was most like them. I don't know how true that is today but I still tell people that. I was so invested in these characters, and whatever transpired between those covers was it for them.

My friend Natasha was in town, and the BYU Bookstore was doing a midnight book release party, so being the hardcore fans that we are (HPPs) we pre-purchased our books through them and waited for the day. We didn't feel much like playing games or doing crafts, so we rolled into the bookstore at about 11 or 11:30pm. It was packed. Young children to adults were dressed in character, running around playing Quidditch, casting spells, and eating Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans. I felt underdressed. 

We got in line, which wound it's way up and down all the aisles of the bookstore, out the back door, across Brigham's Square (is that what it's called?) down past the library and off into no-man's land. We were in line somewhere out in Brigham's square. There was a group of boys with a guitar serenading the line with a funny song they wrote about Harry Potter. I don't remember the words but it was very clever. They finished with our section and moved on down the line. Bless those boys. And we waited. And waited. And I thought to myself, "I am so tired. This is not fun. I could have slept in and had the stupid book delivered to my door."
Feeling tired and sad about our decision. Look, the date proves it!
The random boys singing their lovely song
But despite my evil thoughts, we persevered and finally, finally got our books! I was living at Glenwood at the time, so we dragged our poor, tired bodies back to my apartment. This was the moment. I had bought a Harry Potter pillowcase for my friend for her birthday, and being the good friend that I am, I cracked that sucker open and made good use of it.
Got it! Note that it is now past midnight, and is July 21st

Earlier that evening...
Creeping on Harry
We took a breath, held on to the feeling of still having one book left for a minute or two longer, and then flipped open the crisp new cover and dove in...

I got exactly one chapter into it and then fell asleep. So much for being a hardcore HPP. We woke the next morning and continued to read until she had to drive back to Idaho. I was then distracted/stressed by a visit from another old friend that did not go well, and I knew it did not mean good things for our friendship (and I was right, it did not last much longer beyond that). When the awful visit was finally over, I was able to find refuge in the book and I did not leave my room again until I was done. And it was rough. From almost the moment it begins people are dying left and right, up through the final chapters. I had to say goodbye to some very awesome people. At the end, when some of the spirits are talking to Harry (remember how I don't handle death?) I got choked up, at which point my roommate Melissa came in and made fun of me, completely ruining the moment. I finished the book with dry eyes.

And then, just like that, it was over. It had spanned seven years of my life, some of my most formative years and had followed me from middle school all the way to college. Countless hours, conversations, and emotions had been dedicated to these books, this one awesome story.

The End of an Era

And now we come to this, the last movie. By this time next week I will have seen all there is to see on screen and read all there is to read on paper of Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, and his magical wizarding world. There are still some uncharted waters: I haven't been to the Harry Potter theme park yet, and I haven't been to Kings Cross Station in London and stood on Platform 9 3/4. But I plan to someday. For now, though, the telling of the story is over.

I don't remember the exact circumstances under which I watched the first three movies, but I do remember the last four.

I remember finishing Goblet of Fire in the theaters with some friends, I don't remember which ones but they must have been from high school, and thinking "I would have sat here for 15 more minutes to have seen better coverage of the World Cup." I was also really impressed with Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort, and thought everyone's hair was ridiculously long.    

I remember seeing Order of the Phoenix with some friends from the ward and my roommate Maryann. She was deathly ill but I made her go with me anyways. It was either an unpopular showing or had been out for a while because the theater wasn't very crowded. We were spread out across two rows, with some in front and some in back. I was in front and one of the boys put his feet on the seat next to mine. Like, reached over the back of the chair and they were resting on the cushioned seat. And he was wearing sandals and they did not smell good at all. And I thought, "Who does that?"

I think Laurel and I went to Half-Blood Prince; it was me and just one other girl, I know that for sure. If it was us then it was probably a Saturday matinee and we were probably in our pajamas. We were winding down our second year living at Glenwood and we were ready to move on from there. We spent a lot of time hanging out just the two of us because we were tired of where we had been living and our ward. I remember liking the movie; it was the best one so far. As we walked out of the theater we tried to remember if there wasn't a bigger battle at the end of this book than what they showed in the theater.

For the first half of Deathly Hallows I went during Christmas break with my mom to see it. It was fun to go to a movie I knew we would both like (not always the situation) and I was glad she got to see it in theaters because my dad does not enjoy going to the movies and hasn't followed Harry Potter and she didn't have anyone to go with. Thanks to Rexburg being tiny, it had already been kicked to the cheap theater from our one small main theater, so we only had to pay $3 each, and the theater was nearly empty. I was concerned about this one because I remembered the first half of the book being rather slow, and how good could a movie about wandering around aimlessly and arguing be? But I actually really enjoyed it, and was surprised at how tense and into it I was the entire time. Very suspenseful. And while many people complained about Harry and Hermione's dance scene not following HPP guidelines, I thought it was sweet and reminded me that these characters are actually friends and care about one another. As the movie ended I stood up to leave and grabbed the wrong end of my sizable purse dumping about a billion things all over the floor and we had to get the lights turned on so I could round everything up. The weather was awful and I thought for sure my mom and I would die on the ice before we made it to the car, but all was well. 

For this last movie I will be repeating the mistakes and following the patterns of the seventh book: Watching it at midnight. I hadn't planned on this but a ticket presented itself in the form of a group from my ward having an extra one. I will work a 9 hour day, go to the midnight showing, and be back to work at 8 the next morning for another 9 hour day. I'm sure it will be terrible and wonderful all at the same time. Will it be as good as the book? Probably not. Will it be amazing in it's own right? Probably. Either way, will it be a monumental moment? Absolutely.

And this time, I think I'll dress up.  

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