Thoughts on Harry Potter and Hogwarts Express Day

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I made this post two years ago on an old blog, but today is Hogwarts Express Day once again so I am reposting it. In the last two years, my friends Lindsey and Peter and I have made a tradition of releasing a “family cookbook” each year on Hogwarts Express Day. I’m the coordinator of this project, so I’ve been hard at work editing the book for a few weeks and just released it to the two of them early this morning. I love how traditions in my own life are growing and developing as I get older! Anyway, here’s what I wrote on September the first, 2014:

Today is a holiday that very few people actually observe or even have heard of. My best friends and I, however, are all about it. Today is Hogwarts Express Day, the day on which the Hogwarts Express takes students to Hogwarts each fall. As dedicated fans of the series can tell you, each year a scarlet steam engine picks up all Hogwarts students at Platform 9 ¾, Kings Cross Station, London at precisely 11 o’clock in the morning. The long train ride through the English and then Scottish countryside is a chance for students to catch up and eat sweets from the trolley as they approach the castle.

My boyfriend-turned-best-friend, Peter, and I, began observing Hogwarts Express Day when we were first dating. We would “create a feast” – usually including a frozen pizza, some fancified leftovers, Harry Potter themed candy, and always pear jelly beans, and watch the first movie in the series. Several times, I have observed it by myself, and several times with my mom, Peter, or David. Today I am celebrating in Bloomington with David – we have some great food lined up (that will produce the week’s lunches in leftovers!), a Harry Potter shrine that I created in the living room, and soundtrack music is playing. I’m donning my Hermione t-shirt (“Keep Calm and Try Not to Get Killed, or Worse, Expelled”) and a pumpkin-orange cardigan. In a few hours we’ll be curled up on the couch, sipping pumpkin ale and watching Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s faces as they see the Great Hall for the first time.

Obviously, I love Harry Potter. It is a book series that I have been reading and growing with since the age of 8. I got the last few books at midnight-release parties and saw the final film at midnight with Peter. My best friend and her girlfriend took me and David to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and to LeakyCon, an amazing Harry Potter convention, as an early wedding present. I volunteer on the side with The Harry Potter Alliance, a pretty awesome nonprofit. But my love of Harry Potter is so much more than a childhood comfort or a crazy obsession. It is a really meaningful thing.

For me, Harry Potter was a consistent friend through the inconsistency of my adolescence. Teenage years are rocky for everyone, but for me, they had an especially rough edge: my father, with whom I was quite close, was diagnosed with cancer when I was 13 and died when I was 20. Through those years, I read and reread my Harry Potter books until they fell apart. I identified with Harry’s pain and loneliness. Once my father passed, I watched the films and read the books literally every day for months. I raged with Harry when Sirius Black died, I wept while he looked at old wizarding photos of his dead parents, and I held his hand when he visited his parents’ stone in the cemetery in Godric’s Hollow. Harry Potter was both an escape to a fantasy land where my geeky enthusiasm was valued and a really true and honest exploration of the struggles I myself was facing. It brought me together with many people, including my best friends Lindsey and Peter – both of whom used Harry Potter in similar ways in their childhoods and adolescences.

I wept when I got on the ‘Hogwarts Express’ at the theme park in Orlando for the first time, and again when I saw the castle. These amusement park rides represent real homes that really exist inside my heart and mind, and seeing them brought to life was overwhelming. I know that I always have a safe place to turn in this world of fantasy, magic, friendship, grief, and good triumphing over evil. I always have role models for whichever ‘hat’ I am wearing: Harry when I need to be strong in the face of my pain, and I need to make the choice of what’s right. Hermione when I need to buckle down and study or make a careful decision. Molly Weasley when I am finding a nurturing, mothering part of myself. The list goes on.

So Happy Hogwarts Express Day, everyone! Take some time to think about what this amazing series means to you, and enjoy a Butterbeer or a Chocolate Frog. You deserve it!

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