Upon celebrating the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, I found myself reflecting on what the series meant to me both as a young girl and now as an adult. There are millions of people around the world with their own personal Harry Potter story and I wanted to take this time to share my own. My mom first handed me Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone when I was in 2nd grade. I was her little bookworm and she wanted to give me the new book that everyone was talking about. I remember opening it, reading the first few chapters and then promptly burying it at the bottom of my sock drawer. It scared me. For the first time in my young life I had read words so vivid, words that truly made me see a new world, that they actually scared my little 8-year-old self.
I picked it up again about a year later after I had another year of reading under my belt and devoured it. Absolutely devoured it. Hogwarts, friendship, adventure, MAGIC, everything about the book set my heart on fire. At that time, Chamber of Secrets had just been released so I made my dad drive me to our nearest bookstore (a Borders 45 minutes away) so I could continue reading about Harry, Ron and Hermione’s adventures. I was in love.
I have loved reading for as long as I can remember but Harry Potter was the first series that truly took my breath away. As a young kid I developed the rare talent of being able to read anywhere. When I say anywhere I mean literally anywhere. In a crowded room, with a TV blaring, on a softball field, you name it, I was reading. As Harry Potter continued, I made sure to be at a bookstore on release day. There were so many times growing up that I would be at a softball tournament hours away from home but my dad would get up with me bright and early, drive me to a Barnes and Noble and wait with me at the front door until they opened at 8am so I could get my copy of the newest Harry installment and read in between our games.
As I’m sure many of my fellow wizards and witches did, I had many late nights where I read about the Golden Trio’s adventures. On release weekend I would stay up until 4am only finally putting the book down when I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer. I absorbed every single word that J.K. Rowling so generously gave us whether that be the stunning visual scenery or the little life lessons tucked away inside the dialogue.
I recently underwent a mini identity crisis where I switched from a Gryffindor to a Ravenclaw (if you care at all about the Hogwarts houses you know how much of a mental shock switching a house can be). If I’m being completely honest, I was probably a Ravenclaw all along but the selfish part of me wanted to be a Gryffindor with the rest of the Potter crew. There is a certain level of comfort in getting your Hogwarts house assigned, similar to the feeling I have when reading the entire series. I don’t know how else to describe it other than being bundled up in the softest blanket, drinking a cup of calming tea and knowing you are safe. Completely and utterly safe. J.K. gave that feeling to millions of people by allowing them to find others that are similar to them. When you find out someone is in the same house as you it’s a moment of instant familiarity, bonding and trust. As cheesy as it sounds, finding my house helped me to better understand who I am as a person and that in itself is a lot to be grateful for.
Harry Potter means so much to me and I will never have enough words to thank J.K. for the world she created. It gave me a sanctuary to fall into throughout my tween and teenage years when my life felt lonely. It taught me the true meaning of courage, bravery, and empathy. It showed me that a woman could be the smartest and most respected person in a room. It showed me that love and friendship are truly the most valuable things in this life.
Thank you for everything Jo, it is the most comforting thing in the world to know that no matter what happens, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome us home.