Not to be a total child of the 90s (ok, yes, that’s exactly what I’m being), but my most treasured possessions are my first three Harry Potter books.
They are hard covered, tattered from reading an uncountable number of times, one spine has even cracked in that way that makes the pages only bind to each other and not to the spine anymore.
The inside cover of each book has an identical message in the same loopy handwriting:
10 yrs old
Love Mom + Dad”
When I was 10 years old, I was in the forth grade of a small private Catholic school that felt anything but small to me.I can’t remember if I acknowledged that there was a big world out there but I certainly never thought about how inconsequential myself and my school was.
I was what you would call a loser, not quite a nerd because I wasn’t content to just focus on schoolwork (although I was smart and got high grades), but people liked to pick on me the way kids do. And I let it get to me, the way kids also do.
Looking back, I wish I’d been one of those rogue kids who just didn’t give a damn, didn’t let it get to them, didn’t long to be popular and well-liked, and told those bullies where they could shove it. But, low and behold, I wasn’t.
I didn’t possess whatever it was I needed to become one of the cool kids. I tried really hard to. Many a night, I would cry to my mom that I had no friends, which was a lie because I did, they just weren’t the ones I wanted at the time. Rather than throwing in the towel, I tried harder and harder to change and mold myself to whatever the cool kid ideal was.
Cool kids hated school and hated reading and books. I copied. I stopped reading, one of the things I was best at.
I don’t remember why I read the first Harry Potter but it was well after I had received it on 10-27-1999 but it saved my life. I will be forever indebted to J.K.Rowling for writing such a good book that I fell back in love with reading to a level that wouldn’t allow me to sacrifice it in my endeavor to be “cool”.
Looking at these books now, I see my childhood. I see how much my mom and dad loved me. I see my dad bringing me to Barnes and Nobles at midnight to get the sequels. I see my mom telling me that I couldn’t bring the book to my first sleep away camp because I wouldn’t do anything but read and my young self pulling my first all nighter so I could finish it before I went.
I see me sitting in my old room, sad about not being cool and wishing I might get an owl and get to go to Hogwarts, away from my crappy school where I was unpopular. I see my parents being proud of me for writing a letter to Scholastic trying to find out how to get cast in the movies when they were announced.
I see myself learning how to use the internet and a search engine (Ask Jeeves, anyone?) by scouring Harry Potter-related fan pages for hours on end. I see myself making a decision for myself for the first time when I decided that the Catholic church couldn’t always be right if they were banning Harry Potter. I see friendships and bonds formed over a mutual love for one of the best stories ever written. I see my sister, who is my polar opposite, who I fought with constantly, and who I disagreed with on almost everything except that Harry Potter is awesome.
I can still feel a catch in my throat and tears in my eyes when I think about closing the book on the final chapter of the 7th book or the lights coming up in the theater at the end of the 8th movie, both signs that my childhood was over.
My journey with a boy wizard started on October 27, 1999 when my parents unknowingly handed me a stack of three books (not even my main birthday present, just a kind of weird side present) that would change my life. I would grow up with Harry, learn lessons of love, friendship, bravery, and doing what’s right. I would develop a life-long love for reading and then writing that have enriched and filled my life.
Looking at these books reminds me to do the little things for the people we love, like buying them a book we think they’ll like for their 10th birthday. Because the little things really do eventually turn out to be the big things.