I’m an unabashed Harry Potter fan, have been for years.
When I picked up the first book, it was a simple curiosity. Back then, I was working as a journalist, sometimes pulling 13-hour days that began at 7 a.m. sharp, and supremely unhappy in my personal life. I had an ardent desire to escape from the daily grind, and a kid’s story about witches seemed to fit the bill.
To my delight, it did just that. From platform 9 ¾, I was whisked away to another place, far from my adult reality. There, amid witches, potions and staircases that moved, I found solace in this new, mystical world. It was not New York. It was not a never-ending reporting job that started before I could get a cup of coffee in me. It was not a relationship that was flimsy and unfulfilling, with unrequited emotions and frustrations. It was pure, escapist enchantment. It was magic and discovery. Most of all, it offered a delightful, youthful comfort to a weary young adult.
As I slipped into that world every night before bed, curled up in my sleeping loft with a book that was meant for a 10-year old, I felt the heaviness, the seriousness of my day fall away. The burdensome clothes of a young adult trying to make it in Manhattan were replaced by a witch’s wispy robes. I became lighter ensconced in my make believe world. I grew happier in the presence of magical mysteries. I was transformed into a kid without a care in the world.
It’s such purity, that feeling like you’re little again, where everything is fresh and full of magic. Kind of like when you’d spend a summer’s day flitting through the sprinkler in the backyard, the heat of the midday sun drying your bathing suit while you eat a popsicle and giggle with your sister. A single day spent like that, wrapped up in the sparkly happiness and lightness of childhood, that’s the kind of powerful memory that rejuvenates you. That’s what reading Harry Potter was like for me.
It’s been more than a decade since I cracked open The Sorcerer’s Stone. That first book, the one that served as sort of teddy bear or security blanket, has since been thrown away. By mistake of course, and not by me. In a flurry of cleaning and thinning of the bookshelf one day, my husband mistakenly disposed of it. I was crushed when I realized what had happened. That was the book that had allowed me to go to sleep with lightness in my heart instead of angst. But I realized that sometimes those are the books we should let go of—the ones that are so saturated with memories. Sometimes those are precisely the books that are meant to leave us after they’ve done their duty, as that first Harry Potter book had.
After all, I’m not in the same place that I was in the late ‘90s, professionally or personally. That’s not to say there isn’t a need for Harry Potter anymore, or that I’ve somehow outgrown him. Quite the contrary. When you’re trying to become a published author yourself, there’s a certain amount of angst and loneliness that can creep in from time to time, no matter how strong your Patronus charm. Turns out, I still need that delicious slice of escapism that J.K. Rowling can provide.
Which is why my husband, the one who disposed of the memory-laden first book, gave me the entire Harry Potter series. It was a new start of sorts. My reasons for falling into Hogwarts are different, you see, but that doesn’t make them any less important. And it’s something that my wizard husband, while never having read any of the books himself, somehow, quite magically, gets.