When I first heard of the magical world of Harry Potter, I was in high school, and I was doubtful. Other students on the student newspaper was loving on Quidditch (what?), butterbeer (hm?) and hypogriffs (seriously, wtf?).
I didn’t get it. I’m not a huge fan of the fantasy genre, and I shrugged my shoulders at the hoop-la.
One Saturday night, I was babysitting. (Who am I kidding — every Saturday night, I baby sat). Jake and Stephanie wanted me to read to them. (Natalie was asleep already, and Anthony was much too old to be read to at that point. He was like 12.)
“Should we be crazy? Want to start a chapter book?” I asked them, grabbing “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” off Jake’s shelf.
They kind of whined at its length, but I figured I should at least figure out what the fuss was about. Plus, I was reading it to kids I was babysitting. This was totally different than reading some kids’ fantasy book on my own.
That night, I read one chapter. The next Saturday night, I read another chapter. And so it continued: Every Saturday night — and many weekday nights and Sunday afternoons — I would read a chapter or two of Harry Potter. As we got further into the book, it became more and more difficult to put down. Bedtimes came and went. Hours were passed. This shit was awesome.
One Sunday afternoon, I went looking for the book. We only had two or three chapters to go, and I was eager to figure out what happened next.
“Hey, where’d the book mark go?” I asked.
Stephanie and Jake looked at me sheepishly. “We finished it already,” they told me.
“You finished it without me!!???” So naturally, I settled into the couch and started to read.
“Jaclyn, want to play outside with me?” Jake asked.
“Can’t, I’m reading,” I responded.
“Jaclyn, let’s watch a movie,” Stephanie said.
“Go for it,” I said. “I’ll be right here. Reading.”
(Lest you think Jake and Steph’s parents insane for leaving them with me — by this point, I had been babysitting this family for six years. Jake was 10 and Steph 8. It’s not like I was neglecting infants or anything, and after so long, I was more “older sister” than “babysitter.” Steph and Nat regularly accidentally called me “Mom.”)
Jake’s 21st birthday was Wednesday. Steph starts college in the fall. And still, we love Harry Potter. Anthony just graduated college, and Natalie, who was about 3 or 4 when we all started to read the books, just finished her freshman year of high school. She’s a total Potterphile. We remember how our interest grew about a decade ago. I suspect one day, we’ll hit up Harry Potter world together.
The books all have a place of honor on a small bookshelf in my living room. I’ve read them all between two and four times. Those exact books have turned no fewer than three others into Potter nerds. I’ve listened to two or three of them on audio book. A few Valentines Days ago, fresh from a breakup, after I watched the two movies I rented and cried my face off, I found it to be 9 p.m. on a Saturday. I needed to get my mind off life, so I picked up a Potter book. It got my mind off life.
For anyone who doesn’t “get it,” that’s the appeal: It takes your mind of the now, the problems, the day-to-day sameness. It brings you into a fascinating world where you really can fly, but the dishes still need to be done. It introduces you to characters who become your friends, who can console your broken heart or bond you even more to your second family.
I won’t get a chance to see the movie this weekend, but I’m OK with that. A tiny part of me doesn’t want to watch it.
A tiny part of me doesn’t want it to be over.