Many of my Facebook friends are posting their results from the Which Harry Potter Character Are You? quiz and it reminded me of one of my favourite stories. I’m what I guess you’d call a Johnny Come Lately or a Late Adopter or an Anti-Bandwagoner or something. When other people love something, I have an immediate “don’t like it” reaction. It’s lessened over the years and now I just shut up and look into things thinking, “Brayton, you’re not so damn original. Just check it out.” But I’ve always been this way. It’s not that I reject stuff altogether, I just appreciate stuff late. For example, I was into Little House on the Prairie as a teenager because I refused to watch it when all my friends did in elementary school. I even read all the books which I’d had on my bookshelf for years, refusing to read. But I’ve also rejected and then loved cilantro, skinny jeans and Car2Go, among a million other things. Every time I finally fall for something I feel like an idiot because I’ve been missing out. I then remedy the situation by becoming completely obsessed with whatever said previously-rejected thing is. The worst case of this problem of mine is Harry Potter.
I wanted nothing to do with this stupid popular children’s book when it came out. The craze had been in full swing for a couple of years, I guess, with me rolling my eyes at how stupid people were. I worked in a feminist book store, Women In Print, at the time and we would special order books, feminist or not, for customers. Someone had ordered the first Harry Potter book along with her Judith Butler books and it sat behind the counter, waiting to be picked up for a while. One day, I picked it up and started reading.
I remember feeling not only that “You’ve made an arrogant mistake, Brayton” feeling but something else. I felt like I had found a book that took everything I’d ever worried/wondered/thought about as a kid and answered it. See, I was never into Dungeons & Dragons or anything like that but I was firmly raised in magic. I was named after Morgan Le Fay. I was taught at an early age that the version of Morgan I would usually hear about was a bastardized one. My mum told me that, rather than a nasty, evil bitch, Morgan was a powerful, magical woman who had been maligned by Christians and sexist retellings of the King Arthur legend. (It wasn’t until The Mists of Avalon came out years later than anyone believed me.) My favourite books as a little girl were the Dorrie series by Patricia Coombs featuring a little witch, Dorrie, and her mother, the Big Witch, and Dorrie’s black cat Gink. My cat growing up was named Gink and I have had black cats always. There are many more examples but you get the point.
Not only did I realize, upon reading Harry Potter, that I’d missed out on a wonderful story of magic, I felt an overwhelming sense of belonging, and being understood as someone who never thought they belonged.
I was in a sketch comedy group at the time, 30 Helens. I will write about the Helens another day because the importance of that group in my life deserves its own post, but suffice it to say that the women in that group were family to me in a way I had never before understood family. One day, I was on the phone to one of the other members, Farrell, and I couldn’t stop talking about Harry Potter. Farrell was also skeptical about this ridiculously popular series and had avoided it like the plague. “No, Farrell. You don’t understand,” I told her urgently. “You NEED to read these books.”
“Why should I?” she asked, exasperated.
Now, normally this would be my cue to back off but I was so firmly in the throes of Harry-mania (not from One Direction like I am now, Harry Potter) that I launched into a Harry Potter apology. I talked about magic, I talked about great characters, but those weren’t the reasons I loved the books and knew Farrell would too.
“Okay, so, Harry’s parents are dead and he’s sent to live with his rotten aunt and uncle and he doesn’t fit in at all and his life is very confusing but then, one day, he finds out that there is a reason for all this. Unbeknownst to him until now, he is a wizard, and it’s time for him to go to wizard school and discover his powers. And everything falls into place. For every kid who grew up thinking there was something wrong with them that would imminently be explained, for every kid who grew up thinking ‘this is not my real family, is it?’, for every kid who grew up thinking ‘I’m something more than people know…but I don’t know what it is…and if I could just figure it out things would be okay”, these books are so satisfying. He’s a wizard! He gets an answer to his weirdness, to his not fitting in, to his constant wish for an explanation for all this outsider-ness!”
I heard Farrell audibly gasp.
“What?” I asked. “Are you okay?”
There was a long pause. And then a tiny voice on the other end of the line said, “I thought I was from space!”
I feel very grateful for the places in my life where I feel like I belong. Comedy is probably the top of that list and Farrell, the other Helens, the members of Girl Parts, and Lauren from The Crawford Twins were that home for me. As an adult, I now realize that pretty much all of us felt like aliens or secret wizards or misunderstood sorceresses as children…granted, some of us more than others, and I feel much less of an outsider now than I did growing up. I have found my community of magicians who make me feel like I belong but I have moments, let’s face it, hours, in every day where I still want to burst out in the middle of a meeting or my kids’ school playground, “I DON’T BELONG HERE! I’M A WIZARD!”
Oh, and in case you are wondering about my quiz results? Oddly enough yet totally accurate…I am Ron Weasley.