I found it in a dusty shelf buried under piles of books for sale in a musty thrift store that is now closed down. The paper spine was worn in that wonderful way that the spine of a paperback fades after you first crack it open, fold and refold the cover. It was a children’s book and two years after it was first released but judging by the kids in the summer camp where I was a counselor it was a hit. I want to see what the fuss is about, I told my mom with a shrug.
It was the summer after I graduated high school and I was working my first job in the pool where I spent countless hours. I was months away from leaving home and I lived every day swallowing the fear of the unknown, rarely letting it out save for quiet moments when the world was dark and I had run out of things to keep me busy. It was in this context, poolside, hiding from the sun, the humidity clinging to my skin like a blanket, that I first starting reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I was 16 and I would never be the same.
I carried those books with me as I moved from school to home and back again. Every time, they came with me. As more books were released, I waited with bated breath as I devoured each page, words leaving indelible marks.
I starting reading the last book on the drive home, my boyfriend, now the father of my children, smiling over from the driver’s seat knowing that I was lost to him until I finished the last page. I lay in bed all day through the night reading. I couldn’t put it down even as my heart told me to slow down. I was nearing the end and there wouldn’t be another one. To this day, that last one, is my favorite book.
I don’t know what it is about Harry’s world and JK Rowling’s words that changed me. It’s a little bit of magic, and a whole lot of heart. Harry’s story amplified the lessons that I learned as a child. It drove home that love and all that word entails—empathy, compassion, humor, bravery—is enough to change the world.
I’m 35 and all these years later, I still feel the words in my heart as I navigate my life. I still hear Dumbledore’s wisdom and feel Harry’s bravery. I still try to think like Hermione or have Ron’s levity. I still try to have the strength to sacrifice like Snape. And when things are hard I hold on to hope that in the end, all will be well.