This week, Harry Potter turned 39 and I hit over 20 years of being a Harry Potter fan. Everyone's story of how the came to love the boy who lived is different, but I thought I'd share a bit of mine today in honor of his birthday.
Like most good things, this story starts in a library. I was 8-years-old an in the 2nd grade. It was our first class trip to the "grown-up book" section of the library. Up until that point, I'd mostly read books with pictures in them still. I'm sure I was already in love with books and reading at this point. I used to listen and read along to "hooked on phonics" tapes outside for fun at home. But on that day, we were encouraged to go look at the shelves of books without pictures — chapter books.
The memory is fuzzy, but Billy and Morgan, two boys in my class, dared me to read the biggest book we could find. At 320 pages, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was the biggest book on the shelves we could find. Young Emily didn't back down from a challenge and checked the book out without hesitation.
I don't remember how long it took me. I struggled with some of the words -- Diagon Alley become Dragon Alley. I can’t even remember how I originally tried to say “McGonagoll” or “Dumbledore”. Hooked on Phonics can only get you so far at the age of 8, but I finished all 320 pages of it.
The rest is history. Midnight release parties, going to the movies opening night, scrolling eBay for cool merch. My mom even bought me the soundtrack to the first movie one week when I was home from school sick. My childhood is littered in memories of Harry, Ron and Hermione. Not all good. I actually got made fun of a lot for loving Harry Potter throughout school. Even though I wasn’t the only kid reading it and going to see the movies, I was probably the most teased for it.
Looking back I can kind of understand why and that the teasing was about more than how much I loved the books. I was a loud, obnoxious and opinionated girl who didn’t give a damn what most people thought of me (TBH not much has changed). And even though it sucks to have been teased for loving something, I’m sure I wouldn’t be the person I am today without Harry Potter or the friends who loved the series too.
These days I still get teased by friends (new and old) for how much I love Harry Potter, but it's now all good-natured. I am after all a 28-year-old with almost 4 complete sets of the same 7 books and have had multiple vacations focused on Harry Potter-related activities. Teasing comes with the territory. I’m lucky to have been dared that day in the library and for it to have been J.K. Rowling’s book I found.