Dear Harry Potter,
Yes, I know you're not a real person. Everybody stop looking at me like that. But to tell the truth, you've been as much a part of my life — and the lives of a lot of others in my generation — as if you were.
We first "met" you in 1997, when Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was released. At the time, you were (fictionally) eleven years old, and I was twelve. My family got into the habit of reading the books together, taking turns reading out loud. We competed to see who could do the most obnoxious voices for characters like Argus Filch and Dolores Umbridge, and who could pronounce the names of magic spells (like 'Expelliarmus!' and 'Sectumsempra!') with the greatest authority. Somehow, we managed to sustain this habit as my twin brother and I progressed through high school and college — although we had to go our separate ways for the final book, which was released after I graduated with my BA and started working full-time. I wonder if that wasn't just an excuse, though — if the real reason was that we couldn't really manage to acknowledge that the series was ending.
Sometimes it's hard to admit what you lose by growing up.
I wouldn't say it was a deciding factor, but I was certainly pleased that the man I ended up marrying was a J.K. Rowling fan, too. Despite his normally Hermione-like work ethic, he'd admitted to taking days off work when each new book came out in order to read them as fast as possible. Once the tradition of the novels had to come to an end, there were still movies to anticipate, and from the time we started dating my husband and I made it a point to watch all of them together. We don't generally have much in common when it comes to the cinema — I like arty indie flicks, he likes action-adventure — so just as the series of books managed to bring my family together at a time when we were otherwise growing apart, the movies gave me and my husband a touchstone to remind us even when we have our difference, at heart we're both people who cried over Sirius and couldn't wait for Ron and Hermione to just kiss already.
I mean, it sounds silly when you say it like that. But I really think that there's something about the world of the series — the enchanting little details and sweeping themes of love and death — that gets past people's armor of cynicism and gives us an outlet to show that we can really care about something, even something silly. It can be hard to admit our feelings about real things, to be vulnerable when there's a risk involved, but letting ourselves get emotionally involved in a fantasy reminds us of how great a feeling that can be, too. A really good story reminds you that you want to care, and when we share it with our families and friends, it reminds us that they care just as much as we do.
And tonight, my husband, our best friend, and I have tickets to go see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II – the last Harry Potter movie. After this, the franchise is going to be over, and a door will be closed that first opened when I was twelve years old. The mood leading up to the previous films among my friends and family has been one of anxious anticipation, but everyone I know has been pretty bummed about this one, wishing that it could somehow be put off. But of course, as they say, that's all she wrote, and it had to come to an end sometime.
I know there will be other stories that will mean as much to me. Eventually I'll probably have my own kids, and we'll pick up a book to read together that ends up meaning so much more than just something to do on a rainy summer afternoon. But in the meantime, Harry, you meant the world to me, and to the people I love. You defined an era of my life when magic was possible, when everything that mattered was passionately loving your friends and fighting to do what's right. We'll always leave space on the bookshelf — and the DVD shelf — for you, in case you ever feel like coming back.