EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – It was 2002 in a small town just an hour away from Zagreb, Croatia. A VHS tape, never seen before, entered my home that day and stayed in my heart twenty-something years later. A story of a little wizard named Harry. And suddenly, I was no longer a muggle.

It would be an understatement to say Harry Potter films have defined my childhood because to this day not only do I have a permanent mark on my arm signifying the words of the greatest wizard and headmaster Hogwarts has ever seen, Albus Dumbledore, or the fact that my dogs’ names are Hagrid and Tonks, but it goes to the very core of this witch’s wand, down to the the way I see the world around me, just a bit more magical than it might be. 

My first tattoo I got when I turned 18. It’s a symbol for one of my favorite quotes from Albus Dumbledore: “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

I remember, after I watched the first Harry Potter film, The Sorcerer’s Stone, each one after that I had seen in the movie theater with my dad. It was our ritual, we would always get the best seats, grab the largest popcorn they had at the concessions and for those three hours disappear into the world of witchcraft and wizardry. 

After the film was done, I would walk out of the theater, still a bit dizzy, feeling a light haze around my head, almost as if I was underneath an invisibility cloak. My head was stuck somewhere between reality and fantasy, wishfully thinking about what would be happening at Hogwarts, the world’s greatest wizarding school, at the moment. How do you long for a place that doesn’t even exist?

To quote the Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore: “Just because it’s in your head it doesn’t mean it’s not real.”

When I read the news about Robbie Coltrane, best known as Hagrid – the gentle half-giant in Harry Potter, it struck me harsher than I thought. The world has lost another great actor and many of us have lost a piece of our childhood. 

My dad and I have always shared love for Hagrid, he was our favorite character from the get-go. 

When it would be hard to fall asleep sometimes, like when you’re 8 years old and don’t have a 9 to 5 and a mortgage, I’d walk out of my room in my PJs and ask for a good night story. 

Dad would never disappoint. 

All of his stories were made up and almost all the time involved episodes from life at Hogwarts. He would make up new adventures that Harry, Ron and Hermione would face, usually alongside Hagrid and against, of course, Draco Malfoy (surprisingly not Voldemort, for muggles – the ultimate villain of the story). 

Hogwarts at Universal Studios in Hollywood. This was a graduation trip I took with my dad in December of 2021.

And then, on Friday morning, my phone rang: “Robbie Coltrane, actor who played Hagrid in the Harry Potter films,dies.”

Just seconds later I received a text from my dad and tears came pouring down. 

And you might think, why are you crying Karla, you didn’t know this man?

You are absolutely correct to assume that Robbie I didn’t know, but Hagrid, I did. 

He was in my home so many times, in my living room, in my dad’s stories, on my travels, a part of my conversations. 

A symbol of reality I wanted to exist when I was a child.

Something that we lose growing up, the unapologetic imagination and belief in oneself. 

I don’t consider myself to have been an unordinary child, but thinking back on some of my endeavors from back in the day, I might be too subjective to make that statement. 

In pre-school, I used to wear a necklace with an owl pendant. The owl had some sort of a gem stone placed right on its belly. I’m not sure what gem stone that was, but it was dark greenish with reflecting colors that would reveal themselves as you would move the pendant in the light. 

It was my favorite accessory at the time that, to me, had magical properties. 

I remember looking at the pendant while in preschool and imagining I could see what was happening at Hogwarts in real time. I even told my friends, but they would always say “that’s not real,” or, “ you know that Harry Potter is not real, right?”

And yes, I knew, deep down.

 I would defend myself by saying I knew Daniel Radcliffe was real (for muggles: actor who portrays Harry Potter), but not Harry Potter himself.

Except when I looked into that pendant, or watched Harry Potter and Prisoner of Azkaban for the 647th time. 

What makes us take these first steps towards exiting our childhood?

My first trip to London in 2016. This was at the King’s Cross Station at Platform 9 3/4.

First, the mocking of imagination, ours or others’, and then rationalizing entirely way too much.

And then come moments like these, when Robbie Coltrane passes away and you feel so much older than you were just minutes ago. 

It felt the same as seeing your childhood room being packed up and stuff moved to the basement. Or that first goodbye you say to your parents when moving out of the house, one of many more goodbyes to come. 

You slowly lose the little fragments of your childhood, the materialistic or the intangible ones, and you start to feel like a different person. 

But when I dim out the lights, grab the comfiest blanket, cuddle up with Tonks and Hagrid (my dogs), and turn on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban for the 648th time, that’s when those fragments find me once again. 

The imagination is not shamed out of its existence, the world smells like hope and I am in Hogwarts once again. 

First time drinking Butterbeer at Universal Studios in Hollywood. Cheers to you, Robbie.

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