Today I celebrate the birthday of one of my children.
Okay, so it’s not one of my real flesh-and-blood children. Heck, he’s not even a real flesh-and-blood person. But he’s still one of my children.
His name is Harry Potter.
Yes, Harry Potter. As in the Boy Who Lived. As in the main character of J.K. Rowling’s masterpiece.
I consider him one of my children.
Now, before you close your browser and write me off as crazy, hear me out.
As a child, I loved books. I was blessed with a mother who read to me and took me on weekly library trips where I pored over Dr. Seuss and the Berenstain Bears and Charlotte’s Web. Books were these amazing little pieces of paper that could take me anywhere. And for a restless child with an over-active imagination, I needed books to keep me out of trouble.
But as I got older, things changed, as they often do. Sure, I still enjoyed reading, but I now had a life. I had school and friends and boys and, when I got older, a job and college applications. Books sat on the shelf collecting dust while I went out and did more important things. I simply fell out of love with them.
But, when I was senior in high school, I had this teacher. This ONE teacher who just made school fun. She was amazing and creative and talked to us like people, not just students. And she mentioned a book she and her middle school-aged children were reading called, you guessed it, Harry Potter.
Well, if she liked it…
A few days later, after a shift at my after-school job, I ran by the local Target store and found a copy. The cover had a boy with a scar on his forehead flying on a broom and catching a golden ball.
It didn’t seem like my thing at all. But I settled in to read anyway.
One chapter, and I. Was. Hooked.
I read the first book in two days. Then gobbled the second, third, and forth. By that point, it was nearing the release date of the fifth book. I went to the store as soon as it opened to get my copy.
Never had a book so consumed me. Harry, Ron, Hermione–they became my friends. Hogwarts was my home. I yelled at Dolores Umbridge. I wept over Dumbledore. I hoped desperately for someone to love me as much as Snape loved Lilly.
I was in London for the release of the seventh book. I finished it on a red-eye flight out of Heathrow. Stepping off the plane, my life suddenly felt empty. What would I do without wizards and witches in my world?
So I re-read the books.
Over and over and over again.
I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read the Harry Potter series. It doesn’t matter that I know the story inside and out. To me, the books feel like home.
Harry Potter introduced me to what books SHOULD be. They are more than a distraction, more than something to do when there’s nothing good on TV. A book should make you WANT to read, like you might die if you don’t finish the next chapter. It should make you feel things. It should make you look at the world differently, even if it’s just wondering if that weird old lady down the street is actually a Squib. It should make you never want it to end and feel sad when it does. It should make you want to re-visit it over and over again.
Most of all, a book should make you want to read another one. Harry Potter created in me a desire to find a book that could make me feel the same way he did. So I started reading again. Book after book after book. Finish one, grab another. Since Harry Potter, there’s never been a time when I wasn’t reading SOMETHING. And I’ve found some amazing ones. Even some I’ve fallen in love with. But the point is not whether or not I ever find another Harry Potter. The point is that he encouraged me to search.
And so I say, Happy Birthday to the Boy Who Lived, from all of us who came alive because of you.