Dear Harry Potter book series (and also kind of the movies, but mostly the books),
I was 8-years-old when my dad brought you home. In elementary school, I was a voracious reader, and he had heard that you were popular with kids my age. I spent the entire day locked up in my room reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone from cover to cover, only emerging for a hastily eaten lunch and dinner. I distinctly remember sitting on my bed, wildly turning the pages all the way through the last chapter, “The Man with Two Faces.” I was hooked.
That December, I wrote to Santa Claus asking for a wand, preferably one with either phoenix feather or unicorn hair. I assume my parents were not quite sure what to do with that particular request, and on Christmas morning I woke up to a lovingly wrapped Magic 8-Ball. Eight-year-old me was disappointed. Santa Claus had not delivered what I needed to be a wizard. ‘Perhaps I had not made myself clear enough,’ I thought. I shrugged it off, keeping in mind that only kids who were 11-years-old could purchase wands.
I blazed through Chamber of Secrets and received The Prisoner of Azkaban on my 9th birthday, spending a whole family road trip from Dallas to Chicago reading it in the car, slowly ruining my eyesight. Harry Potter soon became “my thing.” In 4th grade, when my dad let me choose my first email address, I came up with “hpbookwiz.” Family and friends gifted me Harry Potter themed bookends, journals, and board games. I started a Harry Potter shelf in my room that continued to grow over the years alongside each hardcover edition. Eventually, the shelf included items such as Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Quidditch Through the Ages, a biography on J.K. Rowling, Slytherin’s locket, circular glasses, Hogwarts stationary, and a ticket stub for a Harry and the Potters wizard rock concert.
I tried everything I could to make life more like the wizarding world. For a time, I wanted a carrier pigeon as a pet, because I figured this was the closest thing to a mail owl I could reasonably obtain. I bought quills and ink from bookstores. I practiced using them in the evening after school, leaving ink stains on the table at home. I soaked sheets of paper in earl grey tea to make my own parchment. I asked my parents to buy a wax seal to stamp letters with. Later when I was in high school, during the summer that Deathly Hallows was released, I used all of these components to create Hogwarts acceptance letters for my friends.
Unfortunately, one of the more religious members of my family caught wind of this and consequently sent me a VHS tape titled, “Harry Potter: Witchcraft Repackaged.” The video argued that Harry Potter would lead children into the occult. It showed footage of Wiccan gatherings and discussed the evils that Harry Potter promoted in violation of the Bible’s teachings. I was confused and a little annoyed. I knew that some people thought the series was a danger to children, and to have my own family tell me the same thing was a bit of a shock. But even as a child, I couldn’t imagine how anyone could come to that conclusion. The books talked about friendship, bravery, tolerance, and the power of love above all. Where was the evil in that? Little did my aunt know that my love for Harry Potter was steadfast, true, and possibly obsessive.
I wanted, so badly, for magic to be real. At an age where a man in a red suit could climb down chimneys and deliver what I wanted, I felt sure that anything could happen; if I just knew the right set of incantations or spells, anything was possible. I distinctly remember the day that I learned the truth. I was dismal and distraught, as I grappled with the reality of a world without magic. Everything was just as boring and ordinary as it seemed. If I could, I would reassure my younger self and tell her that even if wands, phoenixes, time turners, and Animagi were not things that could exist in the real world, that didn’t mean that there is no magic.
What I have been able to take away from my love for you, Harry Potter, is a sense of excitement and wonder for the world. There is magic in fiction, in being able to get lost in a book, movie, or play and investing in characters and stories in a way that reveals our true and idealized selves. There is a sort of magic in art, music, science, and in connecting with another human being. We do not know everything about how the universe works or how people work. Instead of feeling frustrated by the seemingly insurmountable task to understand the world, I feel truly excited to investigate and learn more. With every new experience, every place I go, and every person I meet, there is potential for magic.
There are many other things that you have taught me. I appreciated how each individual in the trio played a role: Hermione with her smarts and hard work, Ron with his loyalty and humor, and Harry with his passion and courage. They were not all the same; each of their unique backgrounds and personalities contributed to how they worked as a team. This taught me to appreciate the different strengths that every individual has to offer. I admired Hermione’s almost unfailing persistence in supporting S.P.E.W. and her attempts to help others, even when no one else supported her cause. Throughout the books, there were themes regarding prejudice and the need for tolerance and acceptance; these values have translated directly into who I am today, leading me into a field that allows me to help families and children of all backgrounds and socioeconomic statuses.
Now that I live in my own apartment, I have a second Harry Potter shelf that includes the series in both paperback versions (Mary GrandPré and Kazu Kibuishi), the illustrated version of The Sorcerer’s Stone, a Harry Potter coloring book, a time turner necklace, The Tales of Beedle the Bard, a Ravenclaw necktie, the elder wand, and a used ticket stub for entrance to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. As a 25-year-old, my love has not wavered.
Anyway, thanks for everything. I have already pre-ordered Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, so I look forward to seeing you soon, old friend.