♥ Dear Mr. Potter: A Retrospective
Whether it had just been me that had been asked to do so, or whether I had been with my class, I don't know for sure. The memory is very hazy (and unfortunately, recalling it cannot be done by easily peering into a pensieve), but what I do remember was my elementary school librarian laying out a huge sheet of construction paper and asking me to help draw out a map of the world of Harry Potter. Having obviously never read the book at that point, I have no idea how I managed to help her, but we finished it. The only thing I can vividly recall -- which still strikes me to this very day -- was the curiosity I felt seeing and hearing these strange names and terms and places that I'd never heard of before, such as: "muggle," "Hogwarts," "The Forbidden Forest," "Hogsmeade" -- the list goes on. It was the same curiosity I felt when I would start to see the book everywhere -- in particular, I remember spotting it in the hands of a fellow schoolmate at recess, as he read it while we were all lined up in our designated spots, waiting for that whistle to blow so we could go play tag or hopscotch.
Shortly afterward, just before that boy called Harry would "apparate" into my life, my own life had started going through some changes. By the time the first movie came out, I had already graduated from elementary school and made the awkward transition into junior high. Adjusting at that point was hard for me, and I felt a huge amount of pressure -- not only to fit in, like so many kids my age want, but also to do well. I had found myself placed in what the school called "SP" classes, which were short for Special Placement and were accelerated courses. I had always been a pretty competent student, but as far as formidable was concerned, I was a little shaky in my resolve. Learning was something I was struggling with more and more as I became extremely intimidated by the other seemingly smarter kids in my class, for whom everything came easy.
I hated coming to school.
Then, I became friends with a group of girls (with whom I still remain friends today). I don't remember their own introductions to Harry Potter and whether they'd read the books prior to our meeting, but I do remember all of us getting almost completely obsessed with everything the Potterverse had to offer -- including the movies. I remember going to that first screening with them, excited for not only what the future would hold for Harry, but for us, as well.
Over the years, Harry's struggles with the good, the bad and the in-between also became my struggles, and they saw me through some of the darkest times in my life. When I first read Deathly Hallows, the scene with Harry and the Resurrection Stone made me immediately think of my grandparents, and how little time I had left with them. Reading that chapter made me at least a little grateful that they were still alive. They had been away in my home country of the Philippines, and I remember my grandmother would call and ask for me to come visit her. I would not experience that particular brush with mortality until this past year and a half, when both of them died within a few months of one another. I had stayed with my grandfather -- along with the rest of the family, of course -- in the hospital where he stayed in New Jersey, but it still remains one of my biggest regrets that I never got to see my grandmother one last time.
In The Prisoner of Azkaban, Sirius Black says to Harry: "The ones that love us, never really leave us." I believe that this lesson is true, not just in life but for the books in the series as well. Each hold an incredible power in communicating the importance of love, tolerance, bravery, wisdom and inner strength against all obstacles. It is these lessons that I will continue to hold fast onto and carry with me always.
So, on that note, I say: Thank you, Jo Rowling. Thanks for giving all of us the gift of your words and bringing to life these wonderful characters that we all hold dear. And thanks for my childhood; as imperfect and just plain awkward as it was, Harry and his friends helped to shape it, and I would not be the person I am today without them.
Forever swearing to be up to no good,
Jessica T., 23