The boy wizard who changed my life

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By Katerina Marcotte – Assistant Section Editor

It’s been eight years, and I still haven’t received my letter.

Hagrid, if you read this, Katerina Marcotte is still waiting. You are welcome to burst into her house at any time.

I’ve had a good 12 years of preparation, though. Jumping off beds with broomsticks firmly between my knees, attempting to fashion a wand out of yard waste and crafting a Hedwig costume out of feathers and stapled-together pieces of printer paper have surely proved good witch practice.

In July 1997, “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” appeared on bookshelves in England. A year and three months later, a new title was stamped on new cover art and sold in bookstores throughout the United States. Then came the true magic.

The first book won eight awards alone, six of them related to children’s reading. The world always speaks of how a boy from No. 4 Privet Drive sparked the young hearts and minds of that generation’s 9 – 11 year olds, inspiring kids to read in what parents thought was an intellectually un-stimulating world.

“Almost six out of ten children (59 percent) think the books have helped them improve their reading skills,” said Arthur MacMillan in a July 2005 issue of The Scotsman. “And 48 percent say Rowling’s creation is the reason they read more.”

It was more than that, though. It wasn’t just that the young Muggles wanted to read; it was that the story crawled inside of them and changed how they thought, how they acted and how they wanted to live their lives. That boy with the lightning-shaped scar on his head could not have been a better role model, and he related to children everywhere. He went through the awkwardness, the lost friendships, the lack of parents, the ups and downs of growing up in a house where you feel (and sometimes are) hated for who or what you are. No other book could have done this. It was, and always will be, Harry Potter that changed both the fictional and non-fictional worlds.

As the Harry Potter fandom grew and became public, so came the YouTube videos. With everything from “Potter Puppet Pals” to a NWA spoof of “Straight Outta Compton” performed by Electric Spoofaloo and titled “Straight Outta Hogwarts,” to an entirely fan-made musical (the star of which, Darren Criss, has joined the cast of the ever-popular Fox show, “Glee”).

Online forums, MuggleNet’s Chamber of Secrets being the most popular and even compiling a controversial book, “MuggleNet.com’s Harry Potter Should Have Died” and numerous blogs are dedicated to giving the fans exactly what we want.

The millions of fans around the world even have an amusement park now in Orlando, Fla. This has peeved the mayor of London, who thinks there should be a park in the country of which the books are set. For now, though, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter will remain open and crowded on this side of the pond.

Although discussing Alan Rickman’s (Severus Snape) long pauses and how I think Bonnie Wright can’t pull off Ginny Weasley is entertaining, nothing compares to snuggling up in my bed after midnight with the tale of the Boy Who Lived.

When I abandoned the series after purchasing – but not finishing – “Half-Blood Prince” (which was around the time I entered high school) I had been convinced by kids in my elementary school that reading was hopelessly nerdy. I shelved the black-and-blue-covered book, for which I attended my first and last midnight purchase of the Potter variety, and walked away.

In high school, I quickly gathered a tight group of friends, one of whom convinced the lot of us to read an unfortunate series of books. We giggled, we swooned, we made YouTube videos and we fell in love with a sparkly, unreachable vampire.

I grew up, though, and I left those books happily in my past. When I did, who held her arms open wide, welcoming me back into the world in which I belonged? Mama Rowling.

The fact that the Potterheads did not shame me for my “ducking-out” should be noted. I still get hate from my Twilight-worshipping friends for dismissing Meyer’s work, but the thing about Harry Potter fans is that they don’t care if someone doesn’t swing for The Chosen One. They might write in all-caps about you, but they’re not going to force it down your throat if you don’t like what you’re swallowing.

When I cracked open that book I’d shelved, I rediscovered my love of all things written. Harry’s moodiness in that book matched my maturing years, so I got the chance to grow up alongside him again.

I cried, even though a friend had told me whose life would be taken on page 596.

I laughed, even though I had already experienced Harry’s Felix-Felicis drunkedness from the film adaptation of the book.

I made the decision with Harry, Hermione and Ron to embark on “the longest camping trip in fictional history,” as one of my friends has called it.

Now, in only 10 days, I’ll be sitting in a giant red chair with a large Dr. Pepper on one side of me, Buncha Crunch on the other, a bag of popcorn sitting in my feather-covered lap as I am surrounded by my Potter-mates watching that camping trip unfold.

Wand in hand, Harry changed the world, but he also changed my world and that of children everywhere. He taught us how to love and be loved, to be determined in my thoughts and actions and to never, ever give up, even when facing change (or, you know, the Dark Lord).

 

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