Harry Potter turned 33 yesterday. I feel a bit old at 22, but that series gave me hope, and forced my heart and never and sinew to serve my turn long after they were gone. Here are my Harry Potter stories.
I was 9 when I received the first three books from my dad, which he picked up on a business trip to England. I was a moderate reader, because nothing in third grade really interested me. The Boxcar Kids were dull, though it was the first chapter book I read the whole way through. Long story short, I didn't really know how to read.
But when I opened Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone I couldn't put it down. I re-read it every time I finished it. Every week I put it down on my reading log, to the dismay of my strict humanities teacher. I think she was one of those people who thought the books were 'satanic', though she was the devil (or Voldemort) herself. She actually told my mom that she was worried about me. My mom said to her "I have never seen my daughter so happy with a book, and I'll be damned if you shame her because she's actually reading".
Those books saved me. I was the kid lost in her imagination, head in the clouds, who never looked forward to recess. I was the odd one out. But Harry Potter and his co-horts gave me a way to escape the bench I sat on every day and from crippling anxiety and depression (yes, even as a kid I was riddled with my psychological problems). Ditto for the numerous health problems I suffered from in silence for the better part of my life. They saved me from my home life-my dads absences and my mothers harsh words. I waited for my Hogwarts acceptance letter. It never came, but I held out hope. Today I think I still do.
We had every book overnight mailed as soon as it came out. I went to the local independent bookstore for midnight releases. I read them in three days, trying hard to savor them, but wanting to know what would happen next. My most vivid memory of waiting was sitting on the front porch in my night gown all day, anticipating the arrival of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. It came at 5pm. Though the seventh book is my favorite, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is a close second.
Fast forward to 2007. We were all in Italy looking for a house, and at that point my brother and I were pretty close. He was, and still is, a stoic boy, and wasn't a big reader. At that point I went through other books like my hidden Halloween candy. But we were in an isolated, rural part of Italy, staying in some crumbling villa. Our biggest fear was missing the new book. We didn't want to drive around looking at houses that were in poor shape. We just went to the local cafe to commiserate about not getting the book, and being in a country for two months where we couldn't connect with anyone.
Again, our dad came through. He was always the one who encouraged us. Out of guilt for missing a huge part of our lives? Out of the pain that we were pretty much neglected? Or maybe because he saw that the one of the only thing we looked forward to that year was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. He couldn't tell Gryffindor from Slytherin (for the record, my brother would have been in Gryffindor and I would have been in Slytherin-he's brave and pure of heart and I'm a schemer with a crush on Draco Malfoy). What my dad could tell was that we were excited. So he got two books overnight shipped from England.
My brother and I finished them at the same time, at 3am in three days. I went into my brothers room in the derelict villa, and said, "Vic-ssy, it's over". I had never seen my brother cry, but we hugged each other while tears streamed down our faces. He hasn't cried since then. We are sorta close now, but not like we were when the series ended. But back then we were feeling the same, connected by the magic we both wanted to be real.
I needed those books to give me something to survive on. To live for. To learn to read. Today I am a voracious reader. In my apartment, far away from my original home, I still have the seventh book. I still look up the chapter about the battle of Hogwarts. I go through it when I'm sad. Because I want to return to the start. To the books brought me out of the place of wrath and tears. I owe J.K. Rowling a lot. I think, in many ways, I owe her my life.