I feel like I should say something on #HarryPotter20 about the Harry Potter series because, as so many of you know, I love these books so much (and the films, too, despite their omissions and flaws).
I was a bit late to the Harry Potter party, not reading the first book until 2001, right before the first movie came out. All the magazines and news stories promoting the movie made me curious. I remember reading the first book aloud to my husband as we vacationed in North Carolina. We were immediately captivated by the story and the characters, but mostly by the imagination of it all. Rowling transported me to an environment that I loved–a school in Britain–wove in the metaphor of magic to make it different and interesting, and tied it all together with a compelling story and a thorough, immersive vision of a world that beckoned me into it. And inside I stepped, and I’ve never left.
Admittedly, my fascination only has grown in the intervening years. Though they are categorized as young adult books, the themes speak just as strongly, perhaps more so, to our grown-up selves. Friendship, courage, bravery, love, relationships, integrity, choices, fear, loneliness, pain, loss, good, evil, death, dreams, loyalty, family … whose life is NOT about those things? Sure, it all takes place in a magical world, as do “The Chronicles of Narnia” and “The Lord of the Rings” series, but it’s not about the magic and never was.
In 2008, I was in a car accident and ended up with, among other things, a scar across my forehead. I jokingly told friends that Voldemort attacked me in my muggle car, but that, like Harry, I lived to fight another day. Even though I wear bangs to hide it, having a scar like that in a Harry Potter world is certainly better than the alternative. And sometimes it’s come in handy, like fort the two times we’ve hosted “Halloween at Hogwarts” parties.
The creation of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter by Universal Studios (which, along with Disney, I refer to as my “happy places”) allowed me to do what I always wanted to do after reading the books: inhabit the world of Harry Potter (albeit the movie version of the world). And maybe that’s why Chris and I return so often. It’s just great fun, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
I know I have people in my life who think my fascination with all things Harry is strange and who don’t understand why a grown woman approaching 50 would act like a child of 10 over “some silly kids’ books.” Maybe that feeling of wonder and awe that Rowling’s words and worlds evoke is exactly why so many adults have latched on to this story, right alongside the generation that grew up with the books. How those books make us feel is the real magic of Harry Potter.
I raise my wand today (or wands, I have several) to J.K. Rowling, who literally changed the world through her words, something all good writers want to do but very few accomplish. Her vision is unparalleled, and I, for one, am grateful that she dreamed up the story of the boy who lived. For he does indeed live in our hearts, in our collective imagination, and in our dreams. I believe he always will.