Harry Potter’s 20th Birthday

It’s hard to think that the Harry Potter books are 20-years-old today, but then I remember that I am almost 23 and that Harry Potter has been with me every step of the way. My tattered copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone sits on the bookshelf in my childhood bedroom, surrounded by the next seven years of Hogwarts. As I try and think of a time when Harry wasn’t an important character in my life, nothing comes to mind. And because this is my blog I’m going to share some of the times that those books and the world that surrounds them gave me a place to call home.

  1. I feel like so many in my generation (millennials) found their love of reading in the Harry Potter books. I can’t say that Harry Potter was the first book I ever read, or that I have any memory of the first time I took the train to Hogwarts. I can say with confidence that I would make my Dad read The Sorcerer’s Stone to me over and over again. We would go from the Hospital Wing to Privet Drive over and over. It got to the point where instead of saying no TV for a week, or not allowing me to visit friends when I got in trouble my parents would take these books from my bookshelf.
  2. Finally, after immersing myself fully in Harry Potter’s first two years at Hogwarts I started the first grade and met, Cory Jones. I begrudgingly became friends with Cory after the teacher continued to pair us up on group projects (until in the third grade when he dumped chocolate milk on my head), we eventually bonded over being equally crazy about the world of Harry Potter. Before Potterhead was a word we would call one another after school to discuss the books, and occasionally refer to one another as Harry and Hermione. Upon switching schools, Cory “Harry” and I lost touch, but my friendship with him started a trend of finding Harry Potter to be a touchstone, common ground in attempts to make friends.
  3. Through the rest of my grade school years, I didn’t find friends as crazy about Harry Potter as me, but everyone I talked to knew their ways around Hogwarts. We would have Potter themed parties, sortings, disputes about houses. And in 2007 when the seventh book was released my only regret was being 12 and unable to convince my Mother to let me attend a midnight release. But that didn’t stop me from dragging her out of bed bright and early to buy the book and spend the rest of the day on the couch reading (at one point I was forced to walk-and-read on the treadmill because sitting on the couch all day in the summer isn’t encouraged)
  4. Enter high school, living in a small enough school district I went to High School with many of the people that I attended Grade School with. But intermingled with the three other grade schools in my district. Here I found a group of girls as crazy about Harry Potter fan theories and factoids as myself. We banded together and passed around notebooks of stories, writing ourselves into the series. At the time I didn’t know that what we were doing was Fan Fiction, and had a long history, but at this moment in my life, Harry Potter wasn’t only encouraging me to read but to write and create worlds and characters.
  5. My first year at University I was terrified, I left High School with enough social skills to carry a conversation, as long as I didn’t have to start it and this was my first time leaving the comfort of a small town. I brought all seven of my books and they were the first things I moved into my dorm. The knowledge that I could find my way home whenever I became overwhelmed, or scared was comforting.
  6. During one of the first days of college where they tell all the incoming freshmen about clubs that they can join, or IM sports teams I found the Quidditch Team. While I have never been particularly sporty, much preferring burying my nose in a book than getting my knees dirty I thought that maybe I could find my people here. And oh boy did I. I haven’t done the actual math, but I’m almost certain every friend I made while at college was in some way because of the decision to sign-up for this team, and go to practice my first year. And while I understand that Quidditch is trying to distance itself from its nerdy roots and become a purely athletic pursuit, it will forever hold a place in my heart because of midnight Quidditch games in parks with friends. While we didn’t discuss Harry Potter lore and factoids with the fervor of my High School friend group we bonded over explaining our crazy sport to friends, staying up too late painting the rock. As the sport became more athletic (and oddly political) than I was ready to commit time for the group of people that were there to have fun, and be nerds together split off and continued to have fun throwing bludgers at one another, and staying up too late working on homework.
  7. In between these moments when Harry Potter was most important, I’ve joined and started Tumblr Harry Potter RP groups, become interested in other stories and styles of writing. Lately, I’ve felt myself pulling away from Hogwarts and Harry but I know that both will always be there to welcome me home when I need to feel better.

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