Caitlin made me read Harry Potter. I had successfully fought against the series for 33 years; you all know this if you’ve read my previous post. I began Harry Potter in March. I finished the series on July 25th. I read at a much slower pace the closer I got to the final books. I began to panic. What was I going to do once I finished the series? The lovely people of Reddit gave me ideas (the Harry Potter subreddit is the nicest Reddit ever). Still, though, I drew it out as long as possible.
But, the story ended guys.
I’ve resigned myself to reading the books yearly. I’m also 100% certain that I will be getting my first tattoo.
So, now I’m supposed to write a blog about what Harry Potter meant to me. I have no clue how to do this justice. I’ve pondered this for so long that I’m beginning to become sick of myself. What hasn’t been said about Harry? Who hasn’t realized that, while we love the movies, they just don’t do the books justice? How could they? I could write about all of the scenes I wish were actually in the movies. Or, I could write about the few actors I wish had been different, except, this has been said and done to death. I have nothing new to add. Plus, a certain person who wishes to remain anonymous SWEARS Michael Gambon is superior to Sir Ian McKellan in the role of Dumbledore. Now, pretend you hear Snape as you read this next line:
“Obviously, that person is wrong.”
Here’s what I can tell you, but I warn you, it’s personal and it’s truthful. It’s also not pretty: JK Rowling wrote a series of books that were fantasy-based, but worked well enough that they covered real life problems. No, I will never get a letter to Hogwarts, but magic is real. No, I will never be able cast a spell to make my wand light up, a patronus to appear, or unlock a door. I will never personally know Harry, Ron, Hermione, Molly, Ginny, George, Fred, Arthur, Sirius, Dumbledore, McGonagall, Tonks, Remus, Snape, Malfoy, Pansy, Neville, or Luna – but I have people in my real life that mean just as much to me. What Jo did was to shed light on those dark places that she knew the world would rather keep hidden. She simply illuminated the problems with words.
Wizards and witches are better than squibs and muggles (non-magic humans). Caste systems are hard at work in the series; it would seem that Slytherin’s typically had money where other houses did not. The 4 Houses themselves (Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin) were set up to distrust one another and compete against each other from the beginning. There was no peace and harmony, even if it seems like there was, as danger was just around every corner. Don’t even get me started on S.P.E.W. – Hermione always had it right, mostly. House elves were honor bound by magic, but what if they were honor bound because they loved the families they worked for? Power was always being fought over, whether it was between witches, elves, goblins, giants, or other magic creatures. Power was always fought over and fought for. The entire story of Tom Riddle/Voldemort is just that – a dark wizard who wants all of the power. Who was Riddle, though? He started off as basically as all of us. He was born an orphan, but always wanted more. Voldemort chose his path, just as you and I have chosen ours. Dumbledore spent a large portion of his life creating The Order of the Phoenix to counter Voldemort’s Death Eaters. He tried to right a wrong several times over. Everyone has a favorite character in Harry Potter. Mine is Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore. He’s deeply flawed and deeply repentant. He loves his students and Hogwarts and tries to teach them what they need to know, but also is willing to let them learn despite their own frustrations and mistakes. He also trusts them to become who they are meant to be. That’s a gift that not many adults allow children.
“Albus Dumbledore was never proud or vain; he could find something to value in anyone, however apparently insignificant or wretched, and I believe that his early losses endowed him with great humanity and sympathy. I shall miss his friendship more than I can say, but my loss is as nothing compared to the wizarding world’s. That he was the most inspiring and the best loved of all Hogwarts headmasters cannot be in question.“—Elphias Doge in Dumbledore’s obituary
Here is what isn’t obvious:
When I was young the books were released; it was 1997 for the U.K. and ’98 for America. I was 16/17 when the books began to pop up everywhere. I grew up in an abusive family, though. The thought of reading about a boy who has been orphaned only to find he’s actually a wizard pissed me off. First of all, I attended church, and church taught us that Harry Potter was a book about witchcraft. So, my church was not having any of that. My grandma saw the book in a Sam’s Club once and told me to stay away from it. Now, as I said, I grew up in a less-than-stable home. My grandmother and grandfather would come to the rescue when needed, but for the most part, I was on my own. My dad was an alcoholic and a drug user. My mom was a pill-popper who spaced out on everything available in order to stay with my father. I was abused often; verbally and physically. Drunks are either lovely or fun to be around, or they are horrific and terrifying. I learned from an extremely young age that I would be my own rescue. My mother wasn’t going to save me. My father wasn’t going to save himself, let alone anyone else. So, I found God and Jesus and with the comfort of grandparents who (loved me the best they could for the situation) took me to church every Sunday and Wednesday. Church camp for a week every summer, and once, a Mission Trip to New Orleans – always paid for by my grandmother. My mom would write the checks, it’s just that they would just bounce at the last minute. I received a lot of last-minute scholarships for church camp, actually. The bottom line here is this: At home I was one person, and at church, school, or anywhere away from home, I was another. You see, I learned to compartmentalize my situation. I would take no pity, either. I just wanted to be normal. Still, though, at home I was reading books that were significantly too old for me to read and watching movies that were adult in nature. Between the drugs, alcohol, and obvious disenchantment, my parents never took the time to care. Unless Marilyn Manson popped up on MTV, then my mom threw a fit the size of Texas because “We are Christians and that man is Godless”. While I wasn’t a fan of Manson, I found her tirade hypocritical at best. I say all of this because the lure of Harry Potter was silly compared to movies like Trainspotting, Eyes Wide Shut, The Shawshank Redemption, etc. I was reading graphic books about adult themed situations – I really liked horror and crime. There was absolutely no way I was hopping on some kiddie train to learn about someone whose problems weren’t shit. How can you read Harry Potter, curse, act the way you do, and call yourself a Christian? Because I’m not perfect, I’m a work in progress. Get in line to judge me, the line starts waaaaay back there.
Fast-forward to my 33rd birthday. It had been a hell of a year; my mother FINALLY left my father. Of course, I had to move her out of her place and move her into mine. We condensed our 3 bedroom house of 4 to a 2 bedroom house of 5. My mom had to have a room, right? She couldn’t get a job, couldn’t do anything for months, so we footed all of her bills for 6 months. Then, in November she got a job – at Sam’s Club (I know, Sam’s Clubs seem to be prevalent in my life), promptly found a boyfriend whom she is in love with, and moved out after knowing him for about 8 weeks. Leaving us with her ENTIRE MESS…. including breaking the news of the new boyfriend to family. You see, my mom is still married. My father and I do not communicate because he’s sure I stole her from him somehow, though, to be fair, he’s always been that person. What you see is what you get. At least he’s consistent in his abuse. Better the devil you know. So, after my mom left us high and dry (and significantly poorer) for a man whom she didn’t know, but knew she loved, I decided that I was tired of being an adult. I picked up Harry Potter and I realized that I was finally ready for the series. You see, Harry is an orphan. I feel like an orphan, too. I don’t want to take away from any actual orphan’s here; I just felt that way. Harry is abused in the care of his family… so was I. Harry getting accepted to Hogwarts actually made me entirely happy. Hogwarts was EVERYTHING! I would have KILLED to go there. The books aren’t about doing the devil’s work, they’re about magic. Magic is something I am sorely in need of lately. Do you know what happens to kids who grow up in abusive situations? They sometimes end up with mental illnesses. I have mental illness in the form of depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive tendencies. I worry. I hurt. I hide. I burrow. I just want out sometimes. So, for me, Harry was getting out and I got to have a kind of childhood with him. Of course, the books grow darker, but I wouldn’t have respected them had they not. No one actually gets a happily ever after. We all die. I learned a long time ago that the instinct to fight over flight inside me was fairly strong. I understood Harry’s constant struggles. I know all about fighting against everything and everyone while being completely blind to the reason why this is all happening. Harry got a family; Ron and the rest of the Weasley’s loved Harry. Hermione loved Harry. Dumbledore loved Harry. Sirius loved Harry. Lily and James loved Harry. Professor McGonagall loved Harry. Remus loved Harry. Hagrid loved Harry. Dobby loved Harry. I began to understand some things differently. Sure, I grew up abused. Sure, I had to fight tooth and nail against a drunken man who could overpower me easily. Sure, my mother let him hurt me. These things are not my fault. Just like it was never Harry’s fault that Voldemort lived and killed people.
What if I told you Voldemort was my dad? What would you say? How would you understand if I told you that the last time he spoke to me cruelly and tried to abuse me I threatened to kick his ass and throw him in jail? What would you say if the same man began to cry and told me I was stronger than most of the men he ever knew? What would you say if you knew how much it cost me to let it go and live my life? It cost me dearly to forgive him.
What if I told you my mother was not any better? She was no Lily Potter; she would never have protected me with her love and died for me. She still wouldn’t today. She’s incapable of this. Maybe if I stopped comparing myself and feeling sorry for myself I could move on and my depression would magically disappear. No, that’s not the way this works. I take the life I have been given and I learn to heal. JK Rowling gave me so much when she gave me Harry Potter. She taught me that magic is okay to wish for, but that if I want something, I have to work for it. Real friends are courageous and loving. Sometimes you must make your own family. Also, just like Harry had a bit of Voldemort’s soul in him, so too do I have a part of my father’s in me. Someday I hope I learn how to let that part die, but alas, there is no Dumbledore to lead the way. There are no Deathly Hallows to aid me. There is just this one series, this beautiful, lovely, heroic, sad, and perfect story. I will read it yearly and maybe someday all of my personal hurts will abate. Until then I will love my husband and children. I will continue to love my grandparents. I will love my extended family and the family I chose (my friends).
Because, at the end of the day, I choose what life I live.
When I die I want it to be like Dobby. I want to be free.