Magic is real, if you want it
Ladies and gentlemen, witches and wizards, boys and girls, this, is a love fest. This is the story of a girl falling for a book. Never before has the world known such unabashed devotion. If Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone had a window I would have stood beneath it in the pouring rain tossing pebbles at the beveled glass. I would have held up a boombox blasting The Weird Sisters until my arms fell off.
But Harry didn’t have a window in his cupboard beneath the stairs, so instead I stood outside of bookstores counting down to midnight. I spent entire nights and the pre-dawn hours voraciously consuming 700+ pages of magic, defeat, and triumph. A decade later I waited outside amongst cloaked Quidditch enthusiasts of all ages, shivering in the November flurries, awaiting the midnight screening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1. Despite my gut reaction, the division of the final movie into to parts was not cruel, but an act of mercy. A way to buy my childhood a little more time.
I was 13 when I read the first book. Marooned at a cottage with my family, I quickly blew through my arsenal of Christopher Pike’s The Last Vampire series, when I was forced to convince my sister (a year younger than me) to lend me her copy of Harry Potter. “Keep it,” she said, “I hate reading.” You guys, I am resisting the urge to write a painfully lame line about keeping it forever in my heart. But, I totally kept that book. Twelve years later it’s on my shelf in Boston. Sorcerer’s Stone has moved with me more than 10 times.
I read the entire novel in a single afternoon while eating Mackinac fudge like a true Michigander.
When I was 12 my mom gave birth to my sister Allie. I bided my time as she learned to crawl, and then speak, and finally read, dying to introduce her to the truth, the light, etc. that was The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. She took her sweet time, dragging her feet along the ABC’s. Spending nearly a year with the good Dr. Seuss and finding the wild things.And then finally the day came. She was eight. It was more or less the first day she could hold a novel that I shoved The Sorcerer’s Stone into her chocolate-frog sized hands.
I was desperate for another reader in the family. Four years later I am happy to report that my plan worked flawlessly. Allie has read every Harry Potter book at least five times. When she’s home sick from school we text each other Harry Potter trivia questions. Or rather, we did do this until she informed me she had an HP trivia book that I should really consider borrowing.
She knows everything there is to know about magical beasts. She’s been reading at a college reading level since sixth grade. She’s the coolest person I know. All of these things are connected.
Recently, while watching one of the early films Allie responded to my mother’s thoughtful question about spell logistics with, “Perhaps you should read the books.” Just totally shut her down. No one should mess with a girl when she’s watching her stories.
I know Harry and J.K. Rowling hard a hard go of it at first, what with the poverty, and manuscript rejections(!), and law suits from Christian associations that feared the magic in the books promoted witchcraft among children. About as valid as the fear that Twilight is leading youngsters down the glamorous road to necrophilia.
Even if you hate Harry Potter because you think it’s too mainstream, or rips off English lore, or is just plain beneath you, you should respect it. This Englishwoman, this single mother, created a universe that made millions of people, adults and children alike excited about reading. She changed my life forever. She made me a better person. She gave me hope, and showed me good wins out. And that’s the most magical thing I can imagine.