‘Hallows’ means goodbye for Potter; fans happy, sad over finale
By Donna Vickroy southtownstar.com July 13, 2011 9:00PM
Jake Daggy, 15, and his mother, Jeanne Shaughnessy, of Chicago's Beverly neighborhood, are fans of the Harry Potter books and movies. | Brett Roseman ~ Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 23, 2012 2:58AM
It’s a bittersweet time for fans of the Harry Potter series.
The magic that has kept them spellbound for more than a decade is about to end.
When Val Irigoyen, of Tinley Park, heads to tonight’s midnight showing of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,” it will be with equal parts excitement and sadness.
She and her friends will watch the eighth and final film in the long-running literary series on Marcus Theatre’s Ultra Screen in Orland Park.
“I can’t wait to see how the book translates to the big screen, but I’m definitely going to miss the excitement of a Harry Potter new release,” Irigoyen, 23, said. “I grew up with the series so it’s hard to say goodbye.”
Kate McKinney, of Orland Hills, expects to cry when the film ends.
“I can’t wait to see the movie, but it’s also sad because it’s like losing a friend,” she said.
For many, the popular series, introduced by author J.K. Rowling in 1997, is not just a story, rife with potions and spells and the continuous battle between good and evil.
It’s a passion, an obsession, a relationship.
“The characters are just like us,” explained Emily Parker, of Tinley Park. “They live in a different, more magical world, but Harry and Ron and Hermione are a lot like us. They rely on each other to get through things. They help each other. They’re an example of good friendship.”
In addition to bonding with Harry over the years, Jeanne Shaughnessy, of Chicago’s Beverly community, said the series deepened her relationship with her son Jake Daggy, 15.
“When the first book came out, he was in kindergarten. We read it together,” said Shaughnessy, a reading specialist at Shepard High School.
After that, they read independently but shared their thoughts and feelings about each novel.
“I was so into it and he was so into it, we both loved the adventure,” she said, adding that the shared experience brought them closer and helped Jake develop good reading skills.
Four years ago, Shaughnessy and Jake traveled to London for the release of the last book. They had planned and saved for more than a year to make the journey to Harry’s homeland, where people lined the streets outside bookstores waiting for “The Deathly Hallows” to be made public — 24 hours before it came out in the United States.
Though they read most of the book during that trip, Shaughnessy said she waited until she was home, in a comfortable place, to finish the saga and end the era.
Mike Jacobson did the same thing. Community High School District 218’s English curriculum director was having his car serviced at a Oil n’ Go when he neared the end of “The Deathly Hallows.”
“I closed the book. A mechanic asked what the ending was like. I told him I hadn’t finished it. I had to save that for the perfect space,” Jacobson recalled.
He went home and read the ending.
Tonight, Jacobson is hosting a pre-midnight showing party at his Crestwood home. About a dozen of his former students from his English II class will gather over butter beer and conversation before they walk over to the AMC Loews Theatre.
“It’s kind of like closing the book on youth,” he said. “In a sense it’s empowering, it adultifies you. On the other hand, it takes a little bit of mystery out of the world.”
The students, now all young adults, became enamored with the series back when the first book, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” was released. Each year, they gather at Jacobson’s home to reconnect with each other and their beloved storyline.
Very few literary adventures can compare, Jacobson said. To find a similarly endearing character, he believes, you’d have to go back to the time of the famous English author, Charles Dickens. Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby had a similar effect on readers of that era, he said.
Jacobson draws many parallels between Dickens’ and Rowling’s writing — orphans, underdogs, tough challenges, all experienced through the eyes of kids.
“But there’s no other fantasy or whimsical writing that can compare to Harry Potter,” he said.
And Orland Park orthodontist Lisa Eckenstein believes there is no other fantasy writer who can compare to Rowling.
“She stayed consistent with the plot through to the end,” said Eckenstein, who is springing for a private showing of “Deathly Hallows” for 320 of her staff and patients Friday morning at Marcus Theatre, an hour before the theater officially opens for business.
“I just love Harry Potter. A lot of my patients do, too,” she said. “Since this is the last movie, I said, ‘why not rent a theater for a private showing?’”
As eager as fans are to see the final film, they know that once it’s over, it’s over.
Still, Irigoyen points out that “in a way it’s like my childhood is ending, but whenever I miss it I can always pick up one of the books or watch one of the movies and it brings up all the memories from growing up.”