A History of a Harry Potter Obsession

June 13, 2012 § 2 Comments

I wrote the following post the night Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One came out in theaters. Since I am re-reading the series for what I believe is the four millionth time, I dug this up in the event that my fellow Harry Potter fans out there might like to read it. Enjoy!

OOO

I will never forget the first time I saw Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in theaters.

I hadn’t read the books that were out in 2001 and I did not want to go. My mother almost literally dragged me to the movie, telling me that I would like it. I thought it looked weird. I was convinced it would be terrible, even at the age of ten years old.

But as my mother usually is, she was right – although I always tell myself that she was wrong because in the end, I didn’t like the movie. I absolutely loved it. I fell head over heels in love with Harry and Ron and Hermione and their world, where good really did triumph over evil and where the true magic that held everyone’s lives together was friendship and loyalty and love.

When we got back from the movie I stole my big sister’s copy of Harry Potter and the Socerer’s Stone and sat on our futon in the living room with a blanket, literally reading the first book for the first time in a day. Then I devoured the second. And the third. And the fourth. I sat on that futon for days, not moving, hardly eating, only going to bed when my mom hid whatever book I was on and made me sleep. I read and continued to fall more and more for Harry and his friends and their incredible story.

After finishing the first four books in less than a week, I had to wait for the fifth book to come out, and when that day finally came around I remember my then step-dad coming home with copies for me and my sister after I had anxiously waited for hours. We both sat and read the whole day, and again and again I thought of just how obsessed I was with this series and how crazy I had gotten. But I was too in love with the books to care.

The second movie came out before I got my hands on the fifth book, and the third movie came out soon after. I remember that the third movie was definitely my favorite back then, but my obsession was fueled by all of them. And then the fourth movie was released, and I remember screaming in agony along with every other Harry Potter fan about how much they had cut.

Then the sixth book hit stores. And I was devastated at the end of it. I cried for days afterwards; my mom was seriously alarmed when I came down the stairs after I had finished the book, sobbing hysterically, wailing about Dumbledore. I gave up Harry Potter for a while then since I was so furious at J.K. Rowling. I refused to touch the books. I became slightly more normal and went back to the series only to see the fifth movie when it came out in 2007 and the sixth in 2009.

And then, in 2007, we got the final book. And I have to confess something that I am still ashamed about: I (mainly because I used to be a huge Harry/Hermione shipper) was upset by it. I didn’t like it at all at first. But just this year I picked it up and read it again. And again. And it grew on me until it is now possibly my favorite book in the series. Then I saw the trailer all those months ago for its movie that is being released tonight. Now I am ecstatic. I cannot wait for this movie. I am back as a true Harry Potter fan after mourning Dumbledore. I am back as the same crazy fan who fell in love with Harry Potter when I saw the first movie for the first time.

Today, though, I realized something.

This is the end.

As much as I had strayed from series in the last few years, there will be no more waiting after tonight and the night in July when the second part of the movie comes out in theaters. No more anticipating another part of Harry Potter’s life, whether it was in live action or book form.

And then I realized something else: I never truly moved away from the series – I just grew up a little. I no longer relied on Harry and Ron and Hermione and everybody else who was a fictional character because I had my own friends. I had a battle to fight here in the real world so I no longer needed to lose myself in theirs.

I will forever love the books, I will forever be grateful for what they did for me during my childhood. And tonight, when I watch the first part of the last movie, I’ll remember what they mean to me. What they still mean to me. Even if I’m not a little kid anymore who can curl up under the covers and read all day long without a care in the world, I will always love this series with all my heart and soul.

Over the years I have lost myself in the books, laughed, cried, rejoiced, celebrated because of them. Call me crazy, but tonight, one of two last nights, I will be a child, and do the same thing all over again.

Summertime in Cave Creek

May 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

Summer is my favorite time of year.

Yes, you read that correctly. I am an Arizonian and I absolutely love the summertime.

I can already see my friend Jim who runs Tierra Madre Horse Sanctuary snorting at this, for he is outside most of the day and the summer is the absolute worst time of the year for the ranch. It is an average of 115 degrees outside during the hot parts of the day (I’ve seen the thermometer hit 120 before!) but even if it’s above 95 it’s still miserable. So when I speak of summertime, let it be known that I’m not necessarily talking about the weather. (Because yes, unless you’re near a pool and have nothing to do but lay out by the water, the weather sucks.)

Honestly, I think my true appreciation of summer began when I saw the Disney movie Recess: School’s Out. You remember that old cartoon of that group of kids who ran around school getting into shenanigans and running the playground and whatnot? Well, they made a movie of the series back in 2001 about how summer vacation was a kid’s only remaining freedom in the harsh reality of becoming an adult. I love that movie far more than a 20-year-old should ever love a cartoon, I think… but it’s such a wonderful film. It’s about defending childhood innocence and keeping those memories as we grow. Growing old, but never growing up. To me, that is what the summer is all about. It stands for freedom and for peaceful times during which we are all encouraged to play and live a little.

The first of my many summer traditions was established when I started watching that Recess movie each year; even now I have to watch it as soon as school is out to officially kick the summer off. Over the years, other traditions have been established, too, and each and every day is always amazing, always cherished.

Below are little activities and customs that have defined my summers and will define this coming one, too. Whether these provide you with entertainment for a few minutes or inspire you to establish your own traditions, I hope you’ll enjoy reading about them!

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1) The first day of summer that Cave Creek hits triple digits, I go to the greatest shaved ice stand of all time. (Actually, I go there all summer long, not just on the first day it’s a hundred degrees outside.) Those people know me way too well by now. Oh, and I only order cherry cola shaved ices. All other people I take there are normal and order different flavors each time, but I stick with the same one.

2) The Fourth of July – my favorite holiday – is a day of reading about the American Revolution and watching National Treasure. It is a day of basking in the freedom that our country has given us and a day for thinking of ways to make the nation stronger. It is also a day where I turn on the TV (one of the only days of the year I watch TV) and watch Washington D.C.’s firework display/concert. I’ll spend those few hours wishing with all my heart I were there. (Needless to say, it is a dream of mine to be in D.C. on the Fourth of July.) Every year on July 3rd I get to see live fireworks up at Harold’s, a popular Steelers bar up in Carefree, with a carload of friends. Such perfect days those are.

3) I wash my car all the time. I’m careful not to use too much water each time, but since I don’t really like swimming this is as much interaction with water as I tend to get. There’s just something about being outside in shorts and flip-flops and cleaning the little baby that gets me from Point A to Point B under the hot sun that makes me so happy. Unfortunately, I think this particular tradition is bound to die… this will be the first summer that I don’t have my Eleanor (my beautiful and wonderful little ’99 Corolla that got beat up in an accident last September) so it won’t be as special. Oh man, that car was my other half. This summer is not going to be the same without her.

4) Almost every night I get in my car and drive through the desert at sundown with the windows down and country music blasting, even if it’s just up to the gas station or to the ranch down the street to say hello. There is nothing like feeling the hot wind against my face and in my hair as I’m watching the sun set on the most beautiful place in the entire world.

5) Speaking of the ranch, starting in 2009, I started volunteering at Tierra Madre Horse Sanctuary, a forever home to previously abused, neglected, injured, or generally unwanted horses. The place changed my life. I don’t get to go there too often during the school year anymore, but going there in the summertime to see the horses and other volunteers, to ride bareback and help fundraise for the ranch is one of the best and most rewarding things there possibly is.

6) The Cleaning of the Closet is a fun tradition – it’s the time I get to go through my closet and pull out anything long-sleeved, woolen, or otherwise uncomfortable to wear when walking outside is similar to walking within an oven. Usually I fill two trash bags full of winter clothing that get stuffed into the garage until September. During the Arizona summer, the goal is to wear as little clothing as one can legally get away with – 110 degrees is not the time to wear anything other than shorts and a tank top!

7) There are two parks that I go to often in order to contemplate life and be a little kid again: the small one in the neighborhood I grew up in, and the playground at my old elementary school where I spent seven years of my life. Yes, I fully admit to climbing fences and walking freely in a school playground in the summertime (though in my defense, there are no “No Trespassing” signs to be seen). There is something so calming about being in the presence of places where I spent my childhood; to make a long story short, I subconsciously repressed a lot of my childhood memories due to an event that happened when I was 15, and wandering around the fields where I used to play helps me to recover them. Because summer is about childhood and innocence, I feel it is important to remember the crazy times I used to have with my friends and hold fast to each memory.

The other custom that I don’t like so much is the task of working most of the summer… but such duties come with growing up, right? Maybe that’s why remembering my elementary school days is important to me – as I battle the business world and settle into a career, I always want to have the same amount of contentment I carried with me during the summers of my childhood.

I’m probably forgetting more traditions, and I’ll probably establish more this summer. That is what summer is all about, though – living each day to its fullest, never looking back, always remembering to cherish each and every moment.

Here’s to the summer of 2012 – may it be a wonderful one for you, reader, and may there be many more to follow.

OOO

“Summer is the time when one sheds one’s tensions with one’s clothes, and the right kind of day is jeweled balm for the battered spirit.  A few of those days and you can become drunk with the belief that all’s right with the world.” ~ Ada Louise Huxtable

A Tribute to the RMS Titanic

April 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

This was posted on my facebook on April 15th, 2012:

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One hundred years ago on this day, the most beautiful ship the world has ever known sank into a dark abyss after striking an iceberg in the Atlantic Ocean, defying mankind, defying all that was believed to be impossible.

One hundred years ago on this day, fifteen hundred people died with the White Star Line’s pride and glory, the largest man-made object of its time, the glorious and incomparable RMS Titanic – all because the “unsinkable” ship’s creators thought that in the end, man could overcome nature.

One hundred years. The ship that has fascinated the entire world has been resting under the waves for a hundred years.

I will never fully understand why I love Titanic and her story so much, why I have always loved her as though the ship were a sister to me or at least a very good friend. Titanic was the first love of my life, my first passion, the first chunk of history I was ever captivated by. To this day I nearly cry simply looking at pictures of her, reading about her untimely fate, researching the lives of her many passengers that were tragically cut short. To say that I am obsessed with her is the understatement of the century. Titanic is a part of my heart and my soul like nothing else will ever be.

I first learned about the ship when I was six years old. My mom says the day in question occurred when she and my dad were watching James Cameron’s masterpiece in our living room and I flounced in, caught sight of the beautiful ship onscreen, and started asking questions. Apparently, they then let me watch the first part of the movie but refused to let me watch the second due to the violence. (After begging my father – a fellow history geek – for weeks, I was allowed to watch the second part of the movie when my mom was gone one day, which resulted in me having nightmares for a week or so and probably began my lifelong fear of deep water, but it was beyond worth it.)

However, I will always remember truly discovering Titanic through my grandpa. Somewhere around the time I saw Titanic onscreen, my grandparents were in town, and if I remember correctly, they were in charge of watching my brother and I one day while my parents were out. I was running wild all over the house and my grandparents were at their wits’ end. My grandpa eventually sat down in the kitchen, got a big sheet of paper and spread it out over the table. Pointedly oblivious to me climbing the walls, he started to draw the outline of something big and mysterious-looking on the paper. I was curious about everything at six and immediately flocked to him to peer down at the drawing over his shoulder.

“What’s that, Grandpa?” I asked.

“It’s a ship,” he answered without looking up. “I’m drawing the most beautiful ship you will ever see.”

“Is it for real? Is it big?” It’s been too long to remember specifically what questions I asked then, but I remember my grandpa’s mouth twitching as though to hold back a smile as he realized he had successfully gotten me to calm down. As I kept firing questions at him, I remember him eventually turning to me and asking, “Do you have horses?”

“Yes,” I said, purely because I didn’t.

“Well, hold them.” And he finished drawing while I sat there silently. Neatly outlined on the paper eventually lay a long, tall, stunning ship (I learned that very day that it was never to be called a “boat”) with four funnels and two skinny masts on either end with wire stretched between them. Several decks stacked upon one another lay between the top of the hull and the bottom of the funnels. My grandpa drew portholes on the sides and tiny lifeboats up above them.

“What ship is it?” I asked at that point, and he told me. The ship, he said, was a glorious creation in the early twentieth century, and on its maiden voyage it had sailed from Southampton to France to Ireland and eventually headed to New York – only to hit an iceberg in the middle of the Atlantic and sink, taking the lives of hundreds of passengers. He told me how the ship’s creators had deemed her unsinkable so that when she did, indeed, sink, there had not been enough lifeboats for the people aboard. He told me how unbearably tragic it was. How beautiful the ship had been. Its name, my grandpa said as he wrote it on the drawing of the ship on the table, was Titanic.

From thereon out, I was madly and indescribably obsessed. At six years old, I remember always wanting to go to the library so I could read books on the ship. I read everything I could get my hands on that I could understand at that young age, including the books my grandparents sent to me. When I was seven or eight, my parents took me to see the Queen Mary in California because it resembled Titanic and bought me two postcards with the beautiful liner painted on them, postcards I still cherish today.

As I got older, I was able to read more information about Titanic online. For birthdays and Christmases I was given books, diagrams, T-shirts, puzzles, a mock Heart of the Ocean necklace that I remember being scared to wear in case it got lost. I was called into the room whenever anyone came across a documentary on TV about the ship and I would happily come running. My friends stopped talking about Titanic around me because they knew I would start talking about it and never stop.

Through years of saving allowance (when I still received it) and, eventually, my paychecks, I bought beautiful photographs of Titanic and had them framed so I could look across my room whenever I wanted and see her in all her glory. On my bookshelf sits a sealed and protected scrap of wood from the ship found floating in the water after the collision, a piece of coal that was salvaged from the wreck site two miles beneath the waves. I cried when I held both artifacts in my hands for the first time. Everyone I knew made fun of me for spending money on wood and coal. But I didn’t care. Part of the Titanic would be with me always.

I think the most memorable thing, however, was when my then step-dad took me to the Titanic museum in Orlando when I was fifteen. There I spent two hours in awestruck wonder, looking at all the artifacts and the pictures, taking in the history and the reconstructions of certain parts of the ship and let me tell you, if you love the ship at all you must go to that museum sometime during your life. It is simply amazing. I remember they built a replica of the Grand Staircase which had been roped off to people who weren’t a part of the exhibit – something I was disappointed about since, like every girl who has ever seen the movie Titanic, all I wanted to do was walk down it like Rose did when she met Jack at the bottom. However, the tour guides hurried us along, and I passed the room sadly. But my step-dad and I doubled back to look at everything again when the tour was over and upon entering that room once more, it was completely empty.

“Go jump the rope,” he told me, nodding to the replica Grand Staircase. “I’ll keep a look out.”

“Really? We’re not supposed to – ”

“Hurry, or someone might come in!”

That was one of the best moments of my life, leaping over the rope and the sign that said “No Trespassing” and rushing up those stairs and thinking how they were exactly like the ones in pictures I had seen of the Titanic’s grand staircase. The clock was there at the top, set at 2:20. Everything was so perfectly carved, so accurately sculpted. I slowly and gracefully walked down the stairs smiling like an idiot but it was amazing; all of it was so surreal and for a moment I had a feeling similar to one I’m sure the ship’s passengers must have had… I was simply awestruck by what Titanic’s elegance and glory had been. I tried to imagine what it must have been like to appreciate the splendor of the ship, never knowing that within days everything would be at the bottom of the ocean.

When I saw the movie by James Cameron for the first time, I was too young to understand a lot of what was going on and only remember being fascinated by all the beautiful clothes and Rose’s red hair (to this day I want her hair). I remember being impressed by how brave all the people were, feeling utter sadness when the freezing water took their lives. Now I watch the movie and cry and sit in awe, but not when Jack and Rose are onscreen. I cry when I see the real wreck at the bottom of the ocean at the beginning of the film, when I see the way the once glorious ship disappeared into the night two hours and forty minutes after striking the iceberg. I sob when the older Rose begins her story and the image of the bow of the ship underwater morphs into the stunning ship it was before it sank. And the very first part of the film, the reenactment of Titanic leaving port for the first time, with all of her passengers waving and cheering…it’s overwhelming. It has always been unbearably overwhelming.

There are many reasons why I was and still am so fascinated with this ship, all of which are not entirely straightforward or clear. Maybe it’s the surreal, breathtaking, nearly indescribable beauty of the doomed ship. It’s the tragedy. The ultimate test of man vs. nature. The bravery shown by the passengers, the crew. Nearly fifteen years of obsession and fascination later, I still get goose bumps when I think about the two hours and forty minutes those passengers went through, the amount of courage they showed.

The captain heroically went down with his ship. The band kept playing until the very end. The operators kept messaging for help even while water filled their cabin. The workers and stokers down below gave their lives to keep the lights on literally until the moment the ship split. Men stepped aside to allow women, children, and less capable people into the only boats there were. There was panic, no doubt. There was terror. There was desperation. And yet through it all, people were brave. They faced their death instead of running from it. Maybe what draws me to the ship most of all is the chilling truth of what the tragedy was about; in the end, it took the glorious Titanic to bring together two different worlds: the rich and the poor. It took the sinking of the incredible ship to show that, contrary to popular belief amongst its passengers, no one person was better than the other.

So much of my life has been dedicated to simply knowing everything there is to know about the Titanic, knowing what caused it to hit the iceberg, knowing who decided to build it, knowing who some of its passengers had been. And every fact I retain is never enough. I’m always searching for more truths, more stories, more answers. Most of all I find myself asking the question that can never be answered: why – why? – did the ship have to sink?

Over two thousand, two hundred people were on board when Titanic headed out into the vast ocean by April 11th, headed for New York, for the New World. Seven hundred five of those passengers survived the disaster. The other fifteen hundred died during that fatal night. Most froze to death rather than drowned…. but either way, it was a tragic end.

All the survivors of the tragedy are gone now. The remains of the Titanic, laying two miles below sea level, are starting to wither away. That thought alone is a knife in my heart…but what I’ve come to realize is that even though the Titanic no longer sails above the water, she is still alive in the hearts of those who understand her story, marvel at her splendor, despair at her death that came too soon. She still stands for timeless beauty unaltered by society. She still stands for hope and she still humbles the human race by reminding us that we will never be greater than Mother Earth. If anything, she reminds us that in the end, financial status or race or religion is not what defines a person’s character. It took the sinking of the ship to show that what sets anybody apart from others is their courage and their strength.

Today, on the hundredth anniversary of Titanic’s sinking, I still sit in awe of the ship she was when she sailed, the beacon of hope she was to the hundreds of passengers who trusted her. My heart will forever belong to the ship that was betrayed by both man and nature on that night a hundred years ago, the ship she is now, laying quietly and peacefully in her resting place… the surreal, beautiful ship she was then and will be forever.

If there is any quote that sums up everything, as Rose from James Cameron’s movie puts it: “Titanic was called the ship of dreams. And it was. It really was.”

OOO

If you don’t want to read my huge tribute, just listen to this. This sums up everything and more.

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