Traditions, Control, and Harry Potter.

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When I was a kid, I was obsessed with traditions. If we did anything more than one year in a row, in my mind, it was cemented as being a tradition, and therefore was unbreakable and unmissable. I couldn't reconcile changes to traditions in my own mind, and my desire for strict rigidity was entirely unsustainable. My mother would have to stop me from rearranging the ornaments on the tree "until it looked like last year", and she calmly handled my meltdown when we moved to Edmonton and no longer had a mantle to hang our stockings on. At Halloween, I would insist on roasting pumpkin seeds before trick-or-treating because there was one time (when I was, perhaps, four) that my mother had done this, and it stuck in my mind. 

Not content with just current family traditions, I also spent a lot of time researching the traditions of different cultures around the world to see how other people lived. I collected recipes for holiday meals around the world and failed spectacularly on more than one occasion when I attempted to recreate them. I quizzed my friends on what their families did over the holidays and compared their traditions to our own, just to make sure that we weren't that weird family that did weird things at the holidays--or, worse, that boring family that didn't do anything at all. 

As an adult, I understand that my compulsion towards tradition has to do with finding consistency in a world of great doubt and change, and I've had to learn how to relax when it comes to missing one of them. The one tradition, however, that I've never compromised on, is my annual re-read of the Harry Potter book series. The Philosopher's Stone is the single point of change in my childhood where I went from casually reading and enjoying books to voraciously and passionately devouring stories (often over and over and over again). It was the series that I could reread hundreds of times in a row and not tire of the characters or the story. 

It was also the series that I strongly identified with, where the milestones in the books mirrored the adolescent hurdles that I myself faced. The dementors, with their ability to suck the happiness out of the space around them, were my companions when I was faced with my first real friendship troubles; Cedric's death and the return of Voldemort coincided with my move from Victoria to Edmonton, while Dumbledore's death occurred just weeks before my first big heartbreak. Even the final book, that last adventure in the battle between good and evil, happened to release mere weeks before that fateful first wedding, and the beginning of my adult life. 

I don't need to reread the books for the story, or even the dialogue anymore; I've read them too many times for that. Instead, as I read the series, I relive my own milestones and reflect on all that has changed since the first time that I read the Philosopher's Stone. It's a way for me to stay connected with the events and people that led me to who I am today but without reliving the painful emotions associated with them. It's an annual pilgrammage through my past, and every time I learn something new. Plus the magical duels are pretty sweet too.