Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Harry Potter Week: Remembering OOTP

It was before we invaded Iraq, if you can believe that. I had chin-length hair which I clubbed back with bobby pins. I hadn't yet learned to drink.

I was in Saratoga Springs, NY, on scholarship to study with the SITI Company. It was our last day, and there was a party for the students. I was the second-youngest in the group, and that by a gap of nearly five years. I noticed that acutely. We were also, now that I think to remember, exclusively white except for the single Japanese instructor. I wouldn't have thought to notice that then.

But because I was so young, or because nobody else cared, I couldn't convince anyone to go into the city with me to get a copy of Order of the Phoenix. It would have been fun; but by midnight the crowd was pretty well drunk and enacting silly improvisations which involved people getting their clothing torn off by clothing-eating tigers. It was the usual theatre-people stuff. I went to bed.

I spent the summer, after that, housesitting for one professor while I was supposed to be doing a research project with another. But she had just become pregnant after a year of trying, and her plans had changed; she and her husband were spending the summer with her mother in preparation. We would communicate by email, she said, but we did not. I housesat for her house as well, walking the two miles back and forth between the two faculty homes and spending every third night sleeping in a different bedroom. Each house had a dog, but -- thankfully -- they were allowed to be kept together.

I put together the necessary research paper alone, not necessarily haphazardly but certainly without the hoped-for effort; I knew that nobody would bother reading it and it was now just a way to get a box ticked off before graduation. When I expressed my disappointment to a (third) faculty member, she suggested I try thinking outside of myself and told me that there was a summer student on campus, in a wheelchair, who needed to be transported to and from class.

And so every day I helped the student in the wheelchair and walked the two dogs (as well as the two miles between the faculty houses, and the miles to and from the university campus). I'm not sure it helped me think "outside of myself," but I certainly became very physically fit. I walked through the toes of my shoes, sewed them up with a 99-cent sewing kit, and kept walking.

Meanwhile I had gone online and found a detailed summary of OOTP, so I could play along when my friends (other honors students on campus for their research summer, albeit with a little more success) talked about the book. It was pretty easy. Finally I admitted to Daniel that I hadn't read it yet at all, and asked shyly if I could borrow his copy.

Earlier that summer a tornado had ripped through my hometown, leveling it in odd patches and destroying a good third of the homes; the weather continued throughout the summer and I found myself leading my friends, leading the dogs, leading the student in the wheelchair down into basements and waiting out storms and sirens. There were a lot of sirens and a lot of storms.

And what I remember most about that summer was that after I finished OOTP, I stopped having nightmares about tornadoes and started having dreams about Harry.

1 comment:

Daniel said...

I remember that summer!

I'm sorry I've been MIA, I've been reading HP7. I'll comment as I finish your posts. :)