In 1998, a worldwide phenomenon made its way to the USA. I was eight years old, and already a big reader. For Christmas that year, my mother gave me a copy of Harry Potter and Sorcerer’s Stone.
I have never been the same.
I think it’s quite unfair that the generation growing up now don’t know the agony it was waiting two whole years for a new Potter book. They’ll never understand the endless discussions about what would happen next, the multiple rereads of the series (to find out what you might have missed and to be prepared for the next book), or the disappointment when the movies came out (I’m not a diehard purist, but there were things with the movies I took issue with).
Most of all, Harry and the Wizarding World he lived in became my escape, just as Hogwarts was for him. He grew up in a rough situation, much like I was going through at the time I discovered him. I was able to relate to the boy with the messy hair and glasses. He never quite knew where he belonged–until the day he went to Hogwarts. I think we all had that experience growing up, the want to fit in, find your place. But one thing Harry taught me is that there’s “your place” in what everyone expects you to be, and then there’s your place. The place you know to be true to you. Harry found that at Hogwarts, and he took me along with him.
The final book (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, for those who (must have lived under a rock) aren’t familiar :)) came out in 2007. When I finished the series (the book took me only 8 hours to read), I put the series down and I didn’t touch the books again. It wasn’t a conscious decision. I went off to college, I lived my life, I found other enjoyments, things I could escape in.
Until two months ago.
For those who aren’t familiar, south Louisiana experienced some of the worst flooding we have ever seen. No, it wasn’t from a hurricane, but it might as well have been. A low pressure system sat on top of the capitol area and spun in circles for three days. We took on over 30″ of water in a 24 hour period. It started north of us and slowly trickled its way down.
My parents’ home received three and a half feet of water. We (I was with them when all of this happened) had to evacuate, leaving my parents’ entire lives behind. We didn’t think the water would affect us. It wasn’t in a flood zone. My dad had lived there for 17 years, never had any water. I can say with certainty that next time, there will be no hesitation. If the water comes up again, we will get out as soon as possible.
What people don’t tell you about a flood is the aftermath. The national media wasn’t here. The only reason my out of state friends knew about it was because of my social media account. After the flood, there’s the cleaning, and the gutting, and watching your family put their entire lives at the road. We worked our butts off an entire week getting the house cleaned out so it could dry out and we rebuild.
Then, two weeks after the flood, my grandfather was hospitalized. I knew he was sick. We all knew he was sick. He’d lost a lot of weight in the last year, he didn’t look healthy. We found out he had liver cancer, terminal. There was nothing we could do. He was put into hospice care. I knew that it wouldn’t be long. He passed a week after.
There were other things going on in my life, stress at work and at home, and I wasn’t coping. I wasn’t dealing with anything that I was going through. I was strung out all of the time, worried about what I could do to help those around me. Until finally, I reached the point where I knew I wasn’t far from hitting the bottom. I knew that I had to take action. I had to do something.
Harry was there, as he always is, to help me until the very end.
Over the next six weeks, I rediscovered the stories as I hadn’t before. I was a teenager when I last read the books the entire way through. This time around, I found things that I loved, things that made me cry; I found there were so many things I missed from the child mindset that I picked up on as an adult. I understood adults, and I questioned the teenage actions more (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix? Bah, it’s actually Harry Potter and the Year of Teen Angst!). I fell even more in love with characters than I had before.
There were so many details I’d forgotten over the nine years since the books finished coming out (things the movies left out, hem-hem)…I fell in love all over again with the series.
Now, two months later, life is beginning to get back to normal. At least, to our new normal. A lot has changed in my personal life: I’ve changed jobs, have a different car, my parents are getting closer to moving back home, and several other things, but I know that I would not have gotten through everything I have been through had it not been for Harry, for these books that are such an enormous part of my life.
There are a lot of people in the world that don’t understand the Harry Potter craze. But that’s okay, we’ll keep it. But if you ever change your mind…
In closing, thank you, to Harry, to J.K. Rowling, for providing me a sanctuary during the tough times, for giving me a place to busy myself with: Hogwarts. What a magical place, until the very end. 🙂
Stay tuned for new material coming soon!
Abbie Lynn Smith.