Tuesday, February 1, 2011

if my yahoo account were an archaeological dig . . .

I got my first email account back in 1996.  It was a hotmail account that I let lapse during an era when I didn't have internet at home, and I didn't want to maintain both work and personal email accounts.  But right before I left that job in 2003, I realized how dumb it was to have let my personal account go, and I signed up for a yahoo account and forwarded a few emails I didn't want to lose from my work account to the yahoo account.

In real life I have definite packratish tendencies.  I still have a collection of letters and cards I exchanged with long distance friends during high school, and in that same file are a few printed emails from my college account that I didn't want to leave behind.  Sometimes when I think about that hotmail account I lament that I let some good things slip into the internet void, but I still have a fairly long-reaching anecdotal history of the past nine years in my yahoo account.  No, I don't save every email.  In fact these days, it has to be pretty dang special to earn a spot in the "keeper" folder, but things do make the cut.  Sometimes when I need to be reminded of a particular fact from my history or if I just need to read something special, I can turn to the keeper folder for some heart-warming nostalgia--or occasionally some heart-breaking memories. 

I've been rereading Harry Potter lately, and yesterday I started Order of the Phoenix.  I can never think about year 5 at Hogwarts without remembering my initial reading experience and the email that it generated.  Because I came late to the Harry Potter love-fest, Order was the first book on whose release I actually had to wait, and I unknowingly started a tradition that I would maintain through the book 7.  This morning when I was in the shower (where I do my best thinking), I thought it would be a hoot to publish that eight-year-old email (one of the earliest in my keepers folder) and share with my imaginary readers my very first thoughts on the book. 

I originally sent this message to family members and Peeps, and it was written so near the release of the book, I assumed people wouldn't have had a chance to finish it yet, so it is virtually spoiler-free.  It comes from a time in my emailing history when I was staunchly opposed to capital letters.  In the same vein, I used brackets instead of parentheses because they don't require the use of the shift key.  In my youthful exuberance, I also made sort of a disorganized mess of this email.  I considered correcting that for your viewing pleasure here, but it wouldn't be a true snapshot of  twenty-four-year-old me.  And what kind of archaeologist would I be if I prettied up the details of the dig? 

let me begin by saying that i couldn't exactly remember who all were harry potter addicted, so if you haven't read the books, this might be a little boring for you [actually, might be boring even if you do read the books].  my point is, my feelings won't be hurt if you get bored and stop reading.
so here's the run-down on the last twenty-four-ish hours of my life.  i got to books a million at about 11 last night.  even with my advance purchase voucher, i knew there'd be a line.  i ended up with a pretty good spot and had the good sense to grab a dave barry book off the shelf to read in line so that i could avoid making eye contact with the crazies and have a buffer for the cranky kids--it was approaching midnight after all.  so i was out the door of b-a-m by three minutes after midnight, which i thought spoke very highly of the faithful employees who were snatching and scanning vouchers and bagging those books with a speed that was impressive given the hour and the fact that they had been there with tv camera crews and all the crazies and cranky kids for way longer than i was.  anyway by the time i drove through at backyard burgers [a person with goals and a thick book and who hadn't had supper needs sustenance after all] and got home and got myself focused, it was at least 12:30 when i removed the book jacket [i hate book jackets, by the way] and hugged [yes, hugged] the 870 page volume to me.  then i dove in with both feet [no, i haven't touched the book with my feet].  sometime after three, my master plan broke down, and i convinced myself that the book would not disapparate [ha] if i slept for a while.  when i woke again it was almost nine, and i blinked once and picked it up again.  so anyway my point is this:  i read all day.  at one point i tried to eat ice cream [the only food i could find in my home that required no preparation], but it wasn't easy to do one-handed, so i sacrificed it for the good of the cause.  i was successful in drinking mt. dew as that is generally a one-handed task.  i finished the book at approximately 10:40 p.m. and embraced it again after a solid thirteen and a half hours of continuous reading, and about sixteen and a half of total time.  
so here are my reactions that in no way give away any plotlines in case you are worried:  i love harry potter, not just the books--harry himself.  i actually stopped periodically through the story and thought to myself that i have a crush on a fictional character.  anyway before i sat down to write this email, i tried to decide how this book held up against the other four, and i had to agree once again that at least for me, they get better as the years go by in that the more this story develops, the more i get drawn in and the more i love it, but is the order of the phoenix a better book than any of the others?  not exactly.  i have always known when i read harry potter that it's just one piece of a seven book story, so i know that when i get to the end of the book, it's not the end, so i'm okay with the fact that not all the loose ends get tied up in neat little bows, but that doesn't mean i don't like bows.  ultimately the last three books [especially goblet, and now, order] to me suffer from empire strikes back syndrome.  i'm wrapped up in the story, i know and love the characters, i know the relevant history, so reading the books and seeing more of that story develop is a joy, but getting to the end of what is available for me to read at this point and not having a happily ever after is always kind of a bummer.  luke's just found out darth vader is his father and had his hand cut off, and han solo is frozen in carbonite and on his way to jabba the hut.  it's a dark point in the story, and you know it's going to have to get better, but you don't have the benefit of being able to sit down and watch jedi [for those of you who aren't star wars fans, i apologize for the extended analogy].  still i love it, and i'm wondering how long i'll make myself wait before i read it again. 
now if you'd like to know in very vague generalities what i thought about specific aspects of the book, i'll get to that.  first i'm sure you all know that in this one, somebody important dies.  no, i'm not telling who, but let me say that it's a big deal, and i hated it, but if you've talked harry potter with me before, you know that there was no one important that i felt was expendable.  still in retrospect, after i stopped crying, i think that if someone had to go, this was the best choice.  in other news, there's the usual frustration of harry not telling some big person everything that's wrong so they can help fix it, though there are extenuating circustances that make it a little more bearable this time around, and frankly, the idea of him being able to handle things on his own at fifteen is much more plausible than it was when he was eleven.  my urge to keep him safe and protected is not so strong anymore, so i can handle the scooby gang not running to a real wizard this go around.  at the end of goblet i sobbed for harry because he was just a little boy, and he didn't have a mom to hug him up and baby him, and admittedly part of my sobs at the end of order were for the same reason, but book five really mans harry up.  he's not a baby anymore, and that came through in a big way for me in this book.  and i think if i go on anymore, it will ruin aspects for you, so i'll stop.
here's my final plea:  if you've read the book, write me back!  i'm dying to talk to someone about it.  if you haven't read the book, get off your butt and do something about it--i'm dying to talk to someone about it.
love to all, ellen

I can say that almost eight years later, I have the same intensity of feeling for this book and this particular reading experience.

I have a few more gems in my keepers folder (perhaps even some that don't pertain to Harry Potter) that I'll look at sharing in the future.


  1. I still think you should write a book or at the very least become a book critic.

    The look into a twenty four year old Ellen was very charming and full of detail as your stories are still today.

    The handful blogs are still my favorites blogs, but this one is in the Top 10.

  2. A (Bit Belated) Birthday comment for (El) Bo:
    Things I love about Ellen:
    1. All of our bits. I don't pick favorites and besides, I'd probably forget some important one, but I love that we have a bit for everything.
    2. Even after this time, she still surprises me. I like a girl who can keep it fresh.
    3. Cooking with reckless abandon.
    4. The special relationship known as cousin/friend. Ellen once alluded to this when she said that she'd let Maggie and Rachel find out about this cool thing on their own, but it's amazing.
    5. She has known me for forever. We have lived together and fought and laughed and planned parties and on and on and on. And even still, we're still going strong. My relationship with Ellen is a constant comfort.

    I'm no blogger, but I thought Ellen deserved to hear the opinion of someone else for her special day.

  3. I got this email the first time around, and I was surprised by how much of it I remembered.

    In keeping with Rob's good example and my own list-making obsession, here are the top five things that I love about Ellen:

    5. When I was a freshman in college and new and a little scared, she wrote me an encouraging note on blue paper with clouds on it and introduced me to a great group of friends and looked out for me.
    4. Ellen is great with words, quick, clever, and always entertaining.
    3. Ellen is crazy smart, monumentally talented, and highly creative. That makes her a great conversation partner.
    2. Ellen is one of the people that keeps our family close.
    1. Ellen is the funniest female that I know, and that is no mean feat.

  4. I can't type for blushing. Perfectly precious idea, Rob-Bob, and perfectly sweet copying of a precious idea, Macaroni. I'm feeling the love.

  5. I can totally relate to your obsession Ellen. I too have to tell myself, "Harry isn't real". Which is pretty hard for me to comprehend since I have his wand in my house :) I came late to the table as well and only had to wait on books 5-7. I found myself drawing out the path Harry, Ron & Hermione take into the dept of mysteries to keep straight in my mind which door led where. I thoroughly enjoyed your archeological dig and am glad you shared it with us. Thank you! And hail all things Harry Potter! ;)


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