06 March 2013

read 1 watch 1: harry potter and the sorcerer's stone

chapter 1: the girl who read

A few years ago I was working at an academic residential program during the summer and came across Harry Potter. The kid's name wasn't actually Harry Potter, but he loved the Harry Potter book series so much that it became his nickname and, at this point, I can't remember what his real name was. This kid owned Hermione's wand, knew all the "spells," and talked about the series all ... the ... time. For my part, I didn't really care; he wasn't in my group, we had very few interactions, and I couldn't have cared less about Harry Potter.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, by
J.K. Rowling (Scholastic Press, 1998)
One day during recreation time I sat at a table with "Harry" and one of the male residential staff members. Both had their heads buried in a book. I soon learned that they were having a reading challenge, each trying to beat the other in finishing out the HP series. With a roll of my eyes, I declared (admittedly, now, with a little insensitivity to how much the series meant to this kid) that I "didn't see what the big deal was" with the books. I'm pretty sure the word "stupid" crossed my lips. With nothing less than what I would call love, this young boy lifted his eyes from his book and told me exactly why the Harry Potter story was so wonderful. I mean, he really laid it out for me. Probably one of the most almost-moving things he said (know this about me: kids can make me cry at the drop of a pin) was his explanation of how Harry is an "outsider in a world he should belong in ... and I know what that's like, too." He then slid the book across the table at me and asked me to just read the first few chapters and see. And so, out of what I'll call an apologetic sense of duty to honor this kid's wise summation of a fictional character's significance ... I started to read.

And then I fell in love.

The first goal in the "Read One Watch One" challenge I've undertaken (with some fabulous fellow writers) is to read chapters 1-3 of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.  We have until March 13 to complete this task. Ahem. I'm done already.

Not just with the challenge ... with the book. Actually, since last Wednesday, I am (currently) on my fourth reading of the book.

I don't say this to brag. I share it only to say: I love these books. Considering the story I shared above about my initial disdain for the series, I think I should be tracking down that young boy (now, I believe, soon to be a college student) and thanking him. I love these books. Love them. When I first read them that summer, I had both kids and counselors giggling at me as they withheld from me the secrets the series had yet to reveal. And now I just ... I just love these books!

I remember, as a child, often finding myself wishing I would learn some fantastical secret about my life. That I was actually a princess. That I was secretly rich. That my life wasn't really my life. Don't get me wrong: I didn't have the worst childhood imaginable. But I didn't have the best one, either. I grew up, in many ways, I think before I should have. Sometimes I still long for the ability to go back and do "childhood" over. And I think that's why I can get so wrapped up in Harry Potter's world. As I read, I imagine what I would have given to wake up in a life like his ... to discover that beneath the surface of the world I knew was a secret, special world to which I really belonged. Even now, at 26-years-old, I'll read this book and watch the film and wish I could be ... well, now, a Hogwarts teacher, or just part of that world in general. I want to marry a Weasley. I want to giggle my way through a meeting with Hagrid. I want to have tea with Harry and ask, "What on earth was going through your head when that happened?"

Reading these books, for me, is an escape into a dream I never want to lose. It's what Peter Pan and Cinderella and all those other fantastical tales bring out in me. It's why sometimes when I pass a lamppost I'll imagine the tinkling of a bell and think, if I turn fast enough, I'll catch a glimpse of Narnia. It's why, when I ride a train past a hillside, I still look eagerly for hobbit holes. It's why I still play dress up. It's probably part of why I'm a writer.

Harry Potter may be the boy who lived. I'm the girl who read. I'm the girl who imagined. I'm the girl who is still dreaming.

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6 comments:

  1. I almost want to bite my "I disliked Harry Potter," tongue after reading this. Especially, because I'm similar to you. Growing up, I always wanted a different life. Always wanted things to go differently, and the kid in your story, I wanted to stop being an outsider and live in a world meant for me.

    I'm so looking forward to reading the rest of the book now. Thank you, Khara.

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    1. Sopphey, when I first started the first HP book, I declared it "stupid" through maybe the first three or four chapters ... and then fell in love with it. It can take a little while. I don't remember what hooked me, but once it did it didn't let go! I hope the hook finds you, but even if it doesn't, kudos big time for giving it a chance!

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  2. Khara, it's only 8 a.m. and you've made me all mushy and sentimental and it will probably last all day. I think a lot of us still carry a secret hope inside that we'll find something greater in ourselves than the world sees. I suppose it's because I read HP as an adult, but I always wanted to mother Harry so he didn't feel so alone. Keep looking for Hobbit holes, you never know what you might find.

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    1. Aw, thank you, Jeannine! My hunt for that secret passageway to Narnia, the portkey to Platform 9 3/4, that hill of hobbit holes ... I hope it will never end!

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  3. Once again, I am your biggest fan. What a great story and thanks to that kid. I am glad that you found the series. Yea, I am behind you - I finished the book on Saturday.

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    1. Thank you, Carol! I'm glad we're in the same Hogwarts house! I owe that kid a major debt of gratitude, no doubt ... and I greatly look forward to reading and book-chatting with you!

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