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My Life as A Potterhead

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The fall of 1998 came and went for me like any other year. I was just starting middle school in a new town where I didn’t know anyone (with the exception of my sister, Samantha). I was enrolled in difficult honors classes. I was just starting to notice boys and actually caring about what I wore to school. And I was still new to the wonders of The WB and MTV. I had no idea that all across the country, something was happening.

At playgrounds, schools and grocery stores, people were spreading the word and talking about the same thing. They say that word-of-mouth spreads like wild fire, and so it was, that seemingly ordinary fall when the name Harry Potter was passed in excited whispers from one person to another. For on September 1, 1998, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was published in the United States. And the world of pop culture and literature has never been the same.

I love to read. I always have. But I’d never been in love with a book before. I’d never had genuine affection for a fictional character, or touched the worn out and torn cover of a book with such loving fondness. I’d never much cared about when a new book was to be released, let alone obsessively count down the days until it came out. However, that all changed when I first picked up that precious Harry Potter book, which had already been passed from my mother, to my sister, and now to me.

I had refused at first. Why did I want to read some little kids’ book about a stupid wizard? However, with all the talk of muggles, Quidditch, and some guy called “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named,” curiosity got the better of me.

So, almost two years after it was first published, I cracked open the book and proceeded to not put it down for the rest of the day. Lucky for me, the next two books in the series were already released by that time, so I quickly moved right on to Chamber of Secrets and Prisoner of Azkaban. In a matter of a few days, I was officially a Potterhead, the affectionate name that fans of the series call themselves. And while it may seem silly, I can truthfully say that those few days of meeting Harry and discovering the magical world of Hogwarts have changed my life.

The first thing to know about us Harry Potter fanatics is that we will, without a doubt, try to convince you to read these books by any means necessary. We will offer you one of several copies of the books that we own. Why do we have so many? Well, because you have to buy the paperback because it’s easier to carry around (as you will not put it down once you start reading), but it falls apart with so much wear (again, with the not-putting-down thing), so you have to buy another one.

A quick search around my apartment reveals that I have at least two copies of all six books that have been released so far (hard cover and paperback) and that the most copies I have is four, including a boxed collection of the first four books that is not touched under any circumstances, as well as replacement copies for the first two books, which have been read so many times that the pages are falling out and the spines are completely broken.

Over the past few years, I have convinced every single one of my friends to read at least Sorcerer’s Stone, though most of them continued with the series. Just this past summer, my roommate read all six books in about two weeks. She holed up in her room and I wouldn’t see her for hours at a time. She would only come out for food and bathroom breaks. I’m telling you, resistance is futile.

That’s why, on July 3, 2000 and June 20, 2003, none of my friends resisted when my sister and I told them we’d be spending the evening at our local Books-A-Million, which threw huge parties for the releases of Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix. We’d all already pre-ordered our copies of the books and we spent the few hours leading to midnight, when the books would officially be on sale, participating in trivia and costume contests, making wizard hats, and conversing with our fellow Potterheads of all ages and sizes. We were all decked out in our finest boarding school clothes, complete with Hogwarts badges that we’d crafted for ourselves. And when the clock struck midnight, we lined up with the hundreds of other people waiting with bated breath for their first glimpse of the always lengthier massive tombs.

For Goblet, Phoenix, and the most-recently released, Half-Blood Prince, my sister and I were always careful to plan ahead and make sure we had plenty of time to read them uninterrupted. It took me approximately two days to finish the more than 700 pages of Goblet of Fire. Order of the Phoenix was bought the night before I left on a 14-day college tour with a group of my classmates. Seven of the ten students on the trip brought the books with them and read during the long drives in between stops at campuses up the East Coast. And those that didn’t bring their own copies were asking us questions every ten minutes or so. (We all faithfully ignored them until we’d finished the chapter we were currently reading.)

Half-Blood Prince was almost a disaster, though. My mother had blindly decided to plan a family vacation for the same week that the penultimate sixth book was to be released. I was deeply disappointed – we’d planned to throw a Harry Potter party that year, which would end with everyone going to Books-A-Million to get their copies. Being in North Carolina would obviously put a crimp in that plan. When my sister initially refused to go on the trip (causing my mother to ask her if Harry Potter was more important than family time, with her answer being an insistent “Yes!”), my parents promised to drive us the thirty-plus miles to the closest Wal-Mart for the midnight release and let us invite our best friend, Shane, to come with us so that we would have someone to read the book with. We warned our mother to not plan any activities for that day of the vacation and sure enough, the three of us sat quietly in the little cabin and read all day, taking breaks every few chapters to discuss our thoughts and theories (“Snape is so not evil!”).

The obsession only got worse when the movies hit theaters. The term “Potter Mania” was popularized almost overnight. After carefully following the filming and production process (“Maggie Smith is perfect for Professor McGonagall!”), we all pre-ordered our tickets weeks in advance and showed up at the theater over an hour early to wait in line with the rest of the Potterheads. We’d be wearing our costumes yet again, complete with plastic wands and Hogwarts ties. And while nothing can hold a candle to the books, these films were like little pieces of magic, giving us a glimpse of what this fantastical world could look like.

For every film, it was the same story for us. Months of anticipation and weeks of planning. Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire were even released in IMAX theaters, so we would all carpool up to Tampa and spend the evening oohing and aahing at the spectacular show before us. Goblet actually came out after all of us had gone away to college, so even though it premiered on November 18, 2005, we all loyally waited until Thanksgiving break, when we would all be home and could make the drive to the IMAX together.

This summer, in about a month to be exact, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix will hit theaters.  Eight days later, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, the last book in the series, will be released.  My sister and I are planning a 10 day extravaganza, with friends coming in from out of town, complete with a Yule-Ball themed party, British food, a trip to the IMAX in Orlando, and attendance at the UCF Bookstore for their Deathly Hollows midnight release party.  

And while we know that there will still be two more films to come, and that the recently-revealed plans for a Harry Potter theme park right here in Orlando will still give us something to look forward to, it still seems like an era is ending.  The very last book is being released – the story is ending.  

Just like when the last Lord of the Rings hit theaters, I predict that there will be a sense of withdrawal.  Maybe even a sense of grief, of loss for this very special part of my life that is ending. 

Because it’s not just an obsession anymore, you see. It’s a tradition. It’s something precious that I have shared with the people I love most in the world. It’s something we all have in common and that we can all understand.

In time, Harry, Ron, and Hermione will be remembered with the likes of such great fictional characters as Dorothy and Toto, Luke and Leia, and even Frodo and Sam. It’s one of the stories that touch a special place in your heart, show hope when facing fear, friendship when there are many enemies, and love when there are so many evils in the world. Everyone should have the pleasure of being a part of something as special and dear as Harry Potter.

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About Cordy

  • Tim Eldridge

    Excellent article ! I am a 46 year old obsessed Potterhead ! In life we all need some escape from all the negative things around us. The world of Harry Potter allows the “child” in me to surface !

  • Driveby

    I agree Tim. Im 76 yrs old and have been a pothead for 40 yrs. I live in a cardboard box with a TV but no place to plug it in. Same thing with my toaster oven. At least I have a good canopener and laptop.

  • Shewhowillbenamed (someday)

    Thanks Ms. Cordy, I wish if I had read this book when I was in high school… it would have really helped out. I’m pretty good at reading something and living in it and forgetting the real world..I was from another country and put in American High Shool, do I need to say more? There were times I didn’t think that I would make it, and i prayed for something to make it easier…like i said the book would have helped,if I known about it..but oh well, i sort of survived but not without permenant damage. Anyways, I’m 23 now, with a BS in Advertising, like u Ms.Cordy. Live in the Potter world as long as possible!

  • Great job, Miss Cordy! I call my wife the resident Potterologist of the household. She approaches the publication of Volume VII with delight and dread.

  • Noah

    While I’ve never been infatuated with the stories themselves, Rowling’s ability to inspire such devotion and fervor in her readers will always amaze me. Dealing with archetypes as simple as the magically gifted young hero or esoteric fantasy environments, she has managed to add something else that permeates to the essence of her work. That ineffable something extra has led not only to her success as an author but to a greater appeal that attracts people with such ferocity. Is it the light of love that her protagonists will never allow to be extinguished? Or is it the broad spectrum of humanity that she is able to encapsulate squarely in each of her characters that speaks so deeply to the reader? Surely, if every author were to discover the secret of this facet of human nature that is so stirred to passion we would never leave our homes for want of another book. So, Rowling, I salute you for igniting this flame in peoples across the world, for your gift is a rare one–you’ve made my friends very happy.

    Great article!

  • Shanna

    I know exactly how you feel. I was convinced that I would never like Harry Potter, but my younger sister and best friend kept trying to get me to read at least the first book. So finally in Spring 2005, I gave in. I literally did not put down the first 5 books for about 2 weeks. I read them, then reread them, and then found myself totally and completely in love with Harry Potter. I drove an hour to get Half-Blood Prince at it’s midnight release and am planning a huge celebration for Deathly Hallows as well. I have been, and continue to be, a Lord of the Rings fan for years, and I never thought I’d love a book like I do Lord of the Rings. I was wrong apparently!

    When my parents tried to schedule the family vacation this year over the third weekend in July, I kindly informed them I would not be attending and that I had a long awaited date with the last Harry Potter book. My mother was a little miffed, but I got my way.

    Thanks so much for this article. It’s great to know other Potterheads out there who are as crazy for Harry Potter as I am!

  • Miss Cordy

    Thank you for all of the kind comments! It is much appreciated and I’m glad I’m not the only crazy Potterhead out there!

  • ~LV~

    I only wish I had put it so succinctly.

    We have all shared something beautiful together. There are so few things in the world which unite us in love – Harry Potter has been one of the best, bringing a love of reading to many who were self-described “non-readers.”

    I hope to share Harry and his friends (and enemies!!) with my own grandsons very soon.
    I know of no greater treasure to give them than a life-long love of reading.

  • CC

    When I was in college my 8 year old neice begged me to read these Harry Potter books *with* her (the first 3 were out at the time). I took the first book home and told her I’d take a look at it. I finished the first book that night and came back the next day asking for the second one and told her I wouldn’t read it with her because it would take her too long and I wanted to find out what happens!

    When I found out the date of the last book I was upset because it would come out soon after my first child was born and I knew that I probably wouldn’t be able to sit and read this book almost non-stop like I have the others! As it is I’m dissapointed with myself because I wanted to read Books 5 and 6 over again before 7 came out and I can’t find the time with a newborn!

    I am both excited and dreading the last book coming out. I think it is really going to affect me when I really realize that it’s over. But I also look forward to sharing it with my child when she gets older, as I have shared the series with my mother (I converted her to a Potterhead as well!).

  • Jamie

    I can actually say that I am not the only one out there that had that same thought when Harry first arrived. I was in my late 20’s when he came out.

    I said the same thing, I’m not going to read that stuff, it’s for kids. My son wouldn’t even read it and at the time the books were to long of a read for him.

    One day sitting at home and nothing to do I crabbed the first Harry Potter book (my mom bought for my son for Christmas and it was never read). I couldn’t put it down. Same here…lucky for me the other two were out.

    Since then I can say I am a Potterhead/Potterfan whatever you want to call it!

  • aunt Kathy

    I’m not at all surprised that this article is so wonderful because you are a wonderful writer.It was especially fun to read as I was apart of all of those years and it was because of you guys that we all started reading the books and catching the fever.I too was resistant at first as I am with anything that I’m told I have to do,but with your close in age cousin(my daughter)in the house ,on the couch surrounded by two to three HARRY books,I began to read and read and read.It’s been a blast talking to you all on the phone and to you all face to face over the years when we get to visit on vacations about our POTTER THOUGHTS. Never got to do the theater adventure together,but watching the dvd’s together has been great times.Thanks for the terrific article and congratulations.I must call later, we just saw the “ORDER OF THE PHOENIX” last night !!! WOW, great job,everything looked just as i thought it would. Later with Love, AUNT KATH

  • President

    I ordered this set to complement my hardcovers. I bought and read them all with great anticipation as each was released, but figured having the entire set in paperback would make future readings less cumbersome and more portable for one who is on the go a lot. Plus the price is good. Also, there is nothing wrong with the physical quality of the set I received. I inspected each book and the case closely after reading the first review. All look good!