To the Boy Who Lived

13 Jul

A Farewell to My Childhood

By Sammy Bina


Every generation has its thing. Something people remember it by. My grandparents bore witness to two world wars. My parents grew up with Star Wars.

Me? I had Harry Potter.

I remember the day the first book came out. I was in fifth grade, attending a tiny Catholic school in Wisconsin. I begged my parents to buy me a copy but they refused because apparently their priest told them people who read Harry Potter would go to Hell. (For the record, I’m pretty sure if there is a Hell, and I’m going there, it isn’t because I read Harry Potter.) Rambunctious, sneaky child that I was, I did what anyone else in my position would have done: went to the library and checked it out anyway. I read it under my covers at night (Just like Harry!), and by the time I’d finished it, I was hooked.

To this day, I still can’t pinpoint what it was about that first book that made me fall in love. Maybe it was my not-so-hidden desire to transfer to Hogwarts, which seemed infinitely cooler than any school I would ever attend. (I still stand by this.) Maybe it was all the magical treats Harry got to eat; as a growing child, I was always shoving food in my mouth. It could’ve been the fact that Ron and Hermione seemed like the two best sidekicks ever, and my best friend at the time didn’t even know who Harry Potter was. These days I’m pretty sure it was a combination of all the above and then some.

By the time the second book came out, my parents had come to their senses and made sure I had a copy waiting for me the day it went on sale. I devoured it in less than a day, and then spent months waiting for the next one. Prisoner of Azkaban came out while we were on vacation, and then my parents played a cruel game and made me wait until we got home before I could procure a copy. Needless to say, I spent six hours in the Colonial Williamsburg gift shop reading it. I didn’t run into any snags after that. Thanks to some creativity and a little hard work, I managed to get a copy of each book the day it come out. (I wasn’t so lucky with the movies, but that’s another story entirely. (I blame the fact that most of my friends don’t possess the same nerdy gene that I do.))

What I’m trying to say here, dear readers, is that Harry Potter is full of memories. It was, essentially, my childhood. I can define points in my life by when the books came out. I can tell you where I was on 9/11, and I can tell you where I was the day The Deathly Hallows came out. In their own ways, each event has had huge significance in my life. 9/11 forced me to look at the world a little bit differently, and Harry Potter made me look at myself. In comparison, I had it pretty good. I wasn’t living in a cupboard under some stairs, and my parents were still alive and loved me. No, I didn’t get to go to a kickass school like Hogwarts, but I got a good education anyway. (And I could play witches and wizards any time I wanted. (I still do.)) It made me grateful for the things I did have. I already loved to read, but my hunger for books grew ten-fold after I stumbled upon JKR’s series. That, in turn, led me to where I am today, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Books are what you make of them. Harry Potter defined my childhood, but also restored my love of books at times when school tried to destroy it. It convinced some of my friends that books really were as awesome as I’d tried to tell them. It got my siblings to read. The written word is a powerful thing, and I’ve loved watching people’s opinions change over the years. With the last movie coming out on Friday, it’s time to officially bid farewell to my childhood. Ironically, the ending of Harry Potter really does coincide with my shift into being an adult. Where Harry’s closing the last chapter, I’m just beginning a new one. So while I’m sad to see him go, it’s exciting, too.

So really, all I have left to say is…


What about you guys? It’s time to reminisce! What are some of your favorite Harry Potter memories?


Sammy recently graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Creative Writing. She is currently in the midst of moving to New York City, where she hopes to find a job in publishing. Her free time is spent editing her YA dystopian, SILENCE, and you can find her on twitter, or follow her blog.


13 Responses to “To the Boy Who Lived”

  1. Hannah July 13, 2011 at 12:24 AM #

    Harry Potter.
    I cannot even begin to verbalize the effect these books had on my life.
    They got me into reading. (I’ve read them all more times than I can count.)
    They got me into writing. (Helllllllllllllo HP fanfiction! I was a dramione shipper, okay?!)
    It introduced me to the internet (aka fandoms and internet communities.)
    Between reading the books and the fanfiction, I learned to analyze characters.
    Reading Harry Potter had always been a constant joy, and it still is.
    I devoted a lot of my life to Harry Potter (honestly, I am a geek.) Growing up, the students ar Hogwarts were some of my best friends. I feel like I grew up with them!
    My whole family was hooked on the books, and we read aloud. That was great, for a while. Then I started reading faster than my parents could read out loud. The first time I heard the story was with my family, read out loud. This was frustrating from about the third book on because that meant the entire had to be together (aka my parents had to get home from work.) I wasn’t allowed to read it until the family had.

    I have a million opinions about the book, seriously vehement ones. I have only recently started to like Ron (Rupert Grint is cute, okay?) and I still wish that J.K. Rowling had developed all the characters a little more. (And possibly skipped the whole Harry being an angsty pain teenager in the fifth book.)

    Oh Harry Potter. The Boy Who Just Wouldn’t Die. You were the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up.
    Except you did and now you are forcing me to do the same.

  2. Sandra July 13, 2011 at 2:58 AM #

    I saw the movie last night at midnight (in Australia) and IT IS AMAZING and hilarious, and definitely made me cry multiple times.

    But the best part? Midnight was both the release of Harry Potter and when I turned 21. My 21st birthday and the conclusion of my childhood collided.

  3. Aurora Blackguard July 13, 2011 at 6:31 AM #

    Aww Sammy! This was such a great post! Thank you for sharing. I was so inspired and my comment was getting so long that I just decided to write a blog post. So here:

    And you’re so right. Harry Potter was so much more than a book series.

  4. Heather July 13, 2011 at 8:43 AM #

    Oh man, I had tears in my eyes by the end of the first paragraph!! Harryyyyy!!! 😥

  5. ChemistKen July 13, 2011 at 8:47 AM #

    My favorite memory really came at the end of the fourth movie. It reminded me so strongly of my days in college, I was actually depressed for a while that I hadn’t gone to Hogwarts instead of the University of Missouri. As a freshman, I was befriended by a professor (my Dumbledore) who set me and two other classmates up in labs of our very own in the basement of the old Chemistry building – a beautiful old building which was a poor man’s version of Hogwarts. While we didn’t end up saving the world from Voldermort, we did have plenty of adventures exploring that old building. Those were the days.

  6. Tymcon July 13, 2011 at 8:57 AM #

    I remember staying up till like 5 am reading the seventh book. Lol I literally couldn’t stop reading it. My favorite scene from the books was dumbledore’s funeral. It was done so beautiful and so depressing. It was just..bleh I can’t explain it.

  7. Sarah Mullen Gilbert July 13, 2011 at 11:16 AM #

    What a wonderful tribute, and so true. Before Harry Potter, my sister hated to read; after, she’s an A student. She got me hooked when the fourth book came out and we’ve shared the experience ever since. Then we got my aunt to join in, and we’re all headed to the midnight showing together for one last night of geeking out. Wishing mugs of butterbeer and tons of epic moments to all!

  8. Ella Schwartz July 13, 2011 at 11:53 AM #

    Well said! I too have so many memories of years of Harry Potter. And now as a mother, it is amazing to see my children getting excited about all things Harry Potter. JK Rowling has created something truly special…magical in fact.

    I too am so emotional about this final movie. We are going to see it on opening night with the kids.

    In honor of the final movie, I’ve dedicated my blog to all things Harry Potter this week. It has been so much fun.

  9. Angelica Barone July 13, 2011 at 2:09 PM #

    You know, I’ve got lots of memories of Harry Potter too, some good and some bad.

    I came to the bandwagon a little late, books one through three were already out when a display at the store caught my eye. I was in grade seven (I think) when I first read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (yes I had an American version) and loved it. I then devoured books two and three and waited anxiously for book four.

    Book four arrived by mail and I loved that one too! But then came the atrocity that was book five which although it made me cry in parts (like Hermione getting hurt and Sirius dying) it started the downward spiral of my love of Harry Potter. By the time book six came about I really didn’t care (book five turned me off that much) but I read it anyways and while I liked it more than book five I didn’t like the way certain plot points were going and the tone that was being set in terms of the war and the people that were going to die.

    With book seven, I didn’t read when it came out and I haven’t read it yet and probably won’t read it. My Mum’s read it and with every expletive at another character’s death I’ve come to the decision that while Harry Potter was a huge part of my life for a long tie, and while I’ll probably continue to read Harry / Hermione fan fiction (yes I’m one of THOSE shippers ^_^) I’m not going to invest my time or energy into a series that has so colossally let me down.

    Now, that’s not to say that I won’t bash Harry Potter to any child who picks it up for the first time, in fact I saw a child the other day who had just bought the first book and I told her that she was going to love it, and it’s true. I loved the first book and were I to read it again I’ll probably still love it. But Harry Potter is no longer a part of my life and I’m okay with that…

    Harry Potter is an amazing phenomenon. JK Rowling’s story is an inspiration to any aspiring writer and I’ll look back on my fond memories and move forward. But that’s just me. ^_^

  10. Asia Morela July 13, 2011 at 7:27 PM #

    Your blog reminded me of every reason why I became a Harry Potter hater although I actually liked the book when I first read it. Everything you mentioned about it is everything I disliked about it (what I liked, on the other hand, was the inventive, suspenseful plot and the unexpected ending). Hogwarts sucked, wizardry sucked, and wizards were a backward, technically deficient, dangerous and repressive society. In comparison, our muggle (Western) world was so much better and more fascinating (nevermind that I had a hard time in high school; at least I got to learn wonderful, invaluable stuff like writing and maths and physics and geography).

    My spontaneous response to the book at the age of 13 was actually pretty enthusiastic, but the huge success it became left a very bitter taste in my mouth. Not that I don’t like successful, popular things (I totally do; I have very mainstream tastes). But in the case of Harry Potter, I found it undeserved. Okay, so it was a pretty cool concept and series; but I’ve spent my whole childhood and teenage years and young adulthood reading TONS of better books. It made me sad to think of all these kids who’d never got their hands on anything worthwhile *before* Harry Potter…

    I think I’m only now starting to re-evaluate Harry Potter, but from a very different perspective. To quote myself: “I’ve only just grasped that the preference Harry Potter feels for the world of witchcraft has to do with belonging and subjective experience, not objective superiority. In fact, Rowling treats as villains all her wizards who profess such a superiority. Her theory is that magic doesn’t make people better, more enlightened, more humane or more intelligent. Which, however frustrating, is probably more “realistic” as well as more entertaining than the opposite premise.” (I was reviewing a fantasy book in which all the magically-gifted characters were boringly better than normal folk.)

  11. A Reader July 14, 2011 at 7:33 AM #

    I loved the series as a child – but it didn’t mean more to me than other books. If anything, Philip Pullman left a deeper impression.

    However, in the last year Harry Potter has become important… not just to me, but to my sister. She was (and still is) having a rough time. One night last October, she came into my room upset. I didn’t know how to comfort her, but somehow – SOMEHOW – I persuaded her to let me read the first chapters of ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’. And the rest is history!

    We read the entire series to each other, in the evenings, or whenever she couldn’t sleep. It was a strange pastime for two teenage girls, but we loved it – and more importantly it was one of the only things she really looked forward to. We’d fight over who got to read the best bits (like the scene with Aragog or when Harry’s high on Felix Felicis). (I let her have the epilogue!) We finished in April, after months of near-nightly reading.

    So: I suppose I’m another person who has to thank J.K. Rowling! Her novels really do inspire hope, excitement, sadness, passion and joy. I actually think I couldn’t thank her enough.

  12. Diyana Wan July 14, 2011 at 9:14 AM #

    Hey Sammy!

    SUPER post! (Side-note: Also slightly unnerving, but largely awesometastic, because we both gave tribute to the HP series with the SAME blogpost title! What are the odds! 😀 )

    Like you, I could pinpoint the exact location I devoured each and every book in the series. My fondest memory to this day is toting PoA around Italy while imagining my gelato was Florean Fortescue’s, then reading it by torchlight in a furiously flapping tent in Germany, and finally gasping at the absolutely jaw-dropping plot twists in London. You can bet your socks I dragged my parents on a (futile) hunt for Diagon Alley the very next day.

    To this day, I think that was one of the most magical times of my life.

    But that wasn’t all the HP universe gave me — it gave me my start in writing. And for that, I owe JK a debt I can never repay.

    So thank you, Jo, for sharing Harry and the magic with us.

  13. brandimziegler August 24, 2011 at 4:35 PM #

    I still haven’t seen the last movie. I’m stalling! I read the 7th book overnight the day it came out and I don’t think I spoke more than 10 words the rest of that day after reading. Part of me died!

    I didn’t get into the series until the 3rd book. My dad’s girlfriend at the time knew I loved books and she knew HP was popular with the kiddos so she bought me the 3rd book without realizing it was a 3rd in a series. I went back and read the 1st one and the 2nd and devoured the 3rd in less than a week.

    Best memory – finally convincing my husband of HP’s epic awesomeness and spending a whole day watching HP movies before standing in line at midnight to get the 7th book!

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