‘Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean it is not real?’-Dumbledore (J.K. Rowling)
In addition to discussing my global adventures, I also want to talk about my other great love…BOOKS! Where in the span of my life I have ridden a prairie train with Laura Ingalls, visited a strange Utopia with Jonah, witness the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and a NASA base on Mars all without packing a bag. As I start what will be many posts about books, I knew I the first would be the ones the that mean the most, the Harry Potter Series.
Much like the sword of Gryffindor, the books came to me when I was most in need. I used to babysit a boy named Sam. He was maybe 10 and had read the first 2 or 3 books. He said I had to read them and lent me Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Being 16, I was not interested. The book literally sat on my desk for a year. Everything changed when I graduated high school. The anxiety I had seemingly managed throughout my life collided with the grief I never dealt with over my mom’s death when I was 11 and a world of possibilities upon me, my life came crashing down. I could barely move and did not eat for a week. My dad was so concerned that he took me in the middle of the night to the emergency room (one of the infinite reasons he is the greatest person ever). I sat there, terrified, and a nurse came to talk to me. She said everything would be ok. I was not crazy. I had handled what life had thrown at me better than most. All lovely, but the advice that has stayed with me, nearly 20 years later, is find something you enjoy, whether it is reading a book or doing a puzzle. So I picked up that copy of Harry Potter Sam had given to me, the one that had been collecting dust on my desk, and read it. I immediately read the next two. Then waited for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire to come out. I never looked back.
Within the pages of Rowling’s books, I found adventure, friendship, defying the odds, and, mostly, characters that I could see myself. Whether Harry dealing with the death of his parents or the death of Sirius Black, someone he was only starting to know (something I relate to-you do not realize how surreal it is to not see your parents as real people until you have one parent that is frozen in time, an incomplete portrait of who they were). The scene that has stayed with me, however, is in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The gang is visiting Mr. Weasley in St. Mungo’s and Harry stumbles upon Neville Longbottom in an exchange with his grandmother. His parents are there physically but are vacant due to torture by dark magic. Neville’s mum gives him a candy wrapper, something, the reader learns, she does with every visit. As Neville and his grandmother step outside, she tells him to throw it away. He sneaks it into his pocket. It is all he has. That is living with loss. It is so simple, so beautifully done, such an accurate portrayal that Rowling cemented Neville as being the character I most relate to and carry around in my heart (More about Binge Mode below, but I was talking about this scene to Mallory Rubin at a Johnny Walker tie-in event for Game of Thrones (I was there to see them). We started to cry while standing in a scene straight from the North of the Wall, it was surreal). When the final book’s contents were leaked, my dad teased me that he knew who all died. My only question to him was, ‘Does Neville die? Because if he does, I need to start mentally preparing myself.’ [spoiler] My dad’s response was ‘Who the hell is Neville?’ and I knew he made it!
My dad has always supported my love of this series. He may not fully get it, but he has gone to see the movies with me and let me ramble about my excitement see Cursed Child. Which brings me to my brother, Brian…B is my best friend and a much better person than I could ever hope to be. He also mocked my love of the books for years. Then, because his goddaughter started reading the series, he decided to read the first book. Keep in mind, B does not read anything but Bill Simmons and Jurassic Park. He read the entire series in a week! He was hooked and now it is something we can enjoy together. This past October, I took him the the New York Historical Society’s exhibit, A History of Magic. It was awesome, but it was so much better with him. We also listen to the best podcast around, ‘Binge Mode: Harry Potter,’ which has not only enriched our experience but increased our number of inside jokes. Mallory and Jason are the best and truly get why these books are so magical. I highly recommend!
So thank you, J.K. Rowling for saving my life. Harry, Ron, Hermione, Neville, et al. came into my life when I needed them most. They have never left. I know that I would have found something else and still managed to live a good life, but I have lived an even better life because of the boy who lived and his friends’ adventures at a wizarding school in Scotland.
Note: This blog’s title actually comes from a Dumbledore quote, which is much more grim than I intend for the blog but I loved the phrase.