So, Harry Potter.
I didn’t pre-order my copy because I wasn’t sure where I was going to be this weekend. Work has taken me out to the Hamptons on certain weekends and if I pre-ordered it, do I send it to my apartment? Or to my parents’ house? Or what? I didn’t have an answer. So, I was sitting home at my parents’ house after work on Friday and the clock hit midnight and my mom said, “You know, you could just go drive to Borders and pick up a copy now.”
And I blinked a few times.
And ate a brownie.
I thought back to high school, when I first discovered HP (after the first three books were already published) and how I actually purchased a Quidditch t-shirt and how I actually WORE said Quidditch tee to SCHOOL, TO HIGH SCHOOL, WHICH WAS A PUBLIC PLACE, AROUND TEENAGERS. And I thought about anticipating the books and spending the summer re-reading them and counting down the days until I could eagerly speed my way through each subsequent novel.
And this was IT. This was the LAST ONE! This was the final installment of an epic, the last book full of characters that I loved and a story that swept me along for the ride like few other books ever did in my whole life. And realized I had absolutely NO desire to go hang out with a bunch of crazed Harry Potter people. That the thought of the traffic (Borders is a good 20 minute drive) and the long lines of little kids in witch costumes overwhelmed me. And that’s when it hit me: Laura, You Are Old.
So, I ate another brownie and went to bed, because that’s what old people do.
I awoke the next morning at 8 (on a Saturday! Without an alarm clock! 50 Old Lady Points for that one!). I turned to my sister, who was fast asleep, having gotten back home from a late night in the city with her friends only three hours before, at the unfathomable hour of 5 am. (Young Points For Her: 150!!) She woke up a little bit as I started getting dressed.
“Where you going?” she asked me groggily.
“To find Harry Potter.”
“He’s at Hogwarts.”
“Right. No. I mean, the book. I’m going to get the book.”
“I pre-pre-ordered mine on Amazon. It’s coming today.”
“I know, Deb. But I didn’t. So I guess…I have to drive to Borders?”
“Yeah. Or Target.”
“Target has Harry Potter?”
“Yeah. Target is closer.”
“But not by much.”
“Yeah. You could go to Stop and Shop.”
“Stop and Shop.”
“As in, the supermarket!?“
“Yeah. Well. Maybe they didn’t get it in right away but there was a sign for it.”
“I can buy the new, highly anticipated, last installment of Harry Potter at the GROCERY STORE!?”
So I grabbed the keys, waltzed into Stop and Shop in sweatpants and a t-shirt, grabbed a copy of Harry Potter and got it SCANNED along with some soup by the nice lady who worked the register because I JUST BOUGHT HARRY POTTER AT THE SUPERMARKET.
Isn’t this some sort of crime?! Or is it simply just white trash, like buying undewear half-price at Wal-Mart? I felt like I betrayed JK Rowling, as if I just did something so typically American, further proof that we really are that stupid. I mean, we even need a separate American VERSION of Harry Potter because someone thinks we won’t understand certain English slang words or verbs or whatever it is that they speak and we don’t. I just made it worse! Not only did I buy the American version of a British product, I BOUGHT IT IN THE GROCERY STORE NEXT TO A COPY OF US WEEKLY.
I finished the novel a few hours ago, in a small coffee shop which just opened down the street and across from our friendly neighborhood Starbucks. I have not frequented Starbucks since this little coffee shop opened up. I am trying to support local business, plus the new place has mini chocolate chip shortbread cookies and UNSWEETENED soymilk, both of which cancel each other out in terms of health benefits and are also delicious.
I chose the same seat at the same table (because I have self-diagnosed myself with OCD) which sits next to a bookshelf, in the corner of the store, facing the street. I always like to sit against the wall or in the corner or up against something sturdy (because I have self- diagnosed myself with sensory issues). I had some freshly squeezed lemonade and a mini chocolate chip shortbread cookie. The chatter around me and buzz of the blender faded away, as I opened to my bookmarked page 587 and finished the rest in the next hour and a half.
The book, as always, sucked me in from the beginning and I couldn’t tear myself away from it. I read it on the subway to a callback this morning, I read it Saturday while the twins took a nap, I read it walking down the street today like Belle in Beauty and the Beast. I got annoyed when anything happened that got in the way of my journey through a turbulent, emotional, obsessive roller coaster ride as Harry Potter & Co. battled Evil one last time.
I guess finishing it in the coffee shop was my way of canceling out the fact that I bought it full-price and handed over the cash to a huge corporation instead of a small, local bookseller. I couldn’t find one out by my parents’ house and it saddened me. My dad told me that when I was little, there were quite a few around but by the time I was in junior high, they all shut down due to the Borders and the Target and everything else that swept through Long Island’s obsession with Super Stores.
My heart was beating fast during the last two hundred pages and I even started sweating as I flipped the pages faster and faster. Since I am an old woman and have since discarded any cares about how people view me when I read Harry Potter, tears fell steadily out of my eyes, unabashedly splashing the crisp pages, occasionally blurring my eyesight. When it was over, I closed the book very carefully and had the sudden urge to lean down and kiss it.
But I didn’t. Because, you know, I do have some pride.
I am aware that Harry Potter is a worldwide phenomenon and is hyped up and engorged by the media. I am aware that it has inspired many children to pick up books and read. I am aware that many people do not see what is “so great” about the books and avoid them altogether. I feel bad for those people.
I began reading at the age of two. Ever since then, my mother did her best to appease my voracious appetite for literature, handing me over anything she could find. I loved series of books the best, anything with a continuing story. Anne of Green Gables and Little House On The Prairie were my favorites, especially the latter since my mother named me after the author.
I used to stay awake during the summer just to read, using the little attachable light that I bought for my Gameboy, underneath the sheets. I remember sweating in my nightgown, alternating which side I was laying on as my hands grew tired of holding the books up. It was as if my world would stop and ache if I didn’t find out what happened next. I couldn’t sleep until I knew, I couldn’t let my eyelids droop before the end was near.
Harry Potter gives me what those books gave me, an escape into a world that is so tactile, so exquisitely described, so carefully planned that I forget for moments at a time that it isn’t real. When I’m absorbed in these novels, I am transported out of my body and mind and into someone else’s completely. And I think that no matter how old I grow, whether I brace the traffic for the party or spend the night home alone, I will never ever get tired of that feeling.