As with most people in their late twenties who effectively “grew up” with Harry Potter (Happy kinda 27th, Harry!), I remember my first encounter with the famous wizard. I was in the fifth grade, and my teacher Mrs. Congdon read the first book to our class in one-hour increments each day after lunch.
For the next several years, I would eagerly await each new book’s release, pre-ordering months before, dressing in costume and waiting in an endless Barnes & Noble line to grab my copy at midnight, and staying up all night to read the book. The series, in some sense, was my Time-Turner, enabling me to pause “real-life” and live, at least temporarily, in an alternate one. Perhaps because of my naiveté, or perhaps simply because of the fantastical nature of the plot, I saw every part of Harry Potter’s world as better than mine.
Today, almost twenty years since I met Harry, I associate the series with escape. Which is why, last month, in search of escape — from the pain of personal injury, from the horror of domestic injustice and worldwide terrorism, from the disgust with political agendas — I reopened Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone for the first time since I was ten. (I planned to read the entire series, and I’m three-sevenths, or well, three-eighths, of the way there.)
This time around, however, the reading experience has been a little different. While the writing still has the magical ability to suck me in for hours on end, Harry’s world no longer seems more (or less) desirable than my own. The obvious parallels —Quidditch injuries and soccer ones, dark wizards and terrorists, Ministry of Magic and government goings-on — are endless. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Because in opposition to those less desirable life truths, the Harry Potter series more abundantly emphasizes the beauties of life: Of continual self-improvement, of subsisting relationships, of unquestioning loyalty, of inspiring community. Forces that work to stamp out darkness in the magic world as well as in our muggle one.
I still experience the glee of getting buried under my covers and whizzing to Hogwarts each night. But what I realize now that I didn’t as a child is that some of the most magical aspects of Harry’s world can (and actually do) exist in my world as well.