It’s July 31st, and that means it’s Harry Potter’s birthday. And JK Rowling’s. And my own! Birthdays all around.
I‘m having a hard time believing it, but I’m twenty years old today. It’s strange to actually type that. I’m no longer a teenager, and if I’m twenty, that makes it nine years since I read Harry Potter for the first time. It’s been so long. It was during the summer when I was ten, going on eleven, when I read them. And it has been my absolute favorite series ever since.
If I’m being honest, calling it my favorite series feels like an understatement. How do I explain how close Harry Potter is to my heart? Whenever I think about it, I get this feeling I can only describe as home. It’s childhood. It’s sheer and utter happiness. It’s the series that shaped me as a reader and as a person. It’s just simply home in those pages.
But believe it or not, I never actually wanted to read Harry Potter in the first place. I had no interest in it. It wasn’t until my dad told me in 2009 that we would be going on a family trip to the brand new Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios the following summer. I was thrilled to go to Florida, but I also didn’t care for Harry Potter and didn’t want to be confused by the whole park. When I told my dad this, he said I should read the books and see if I like it.I didn’t take this lightly. If we were going to this strange new park, then I wanted to understand it. Even though I was expecting to hate it, I was still determined to read at least one of the books. So, the next time we went to the bookstore, I picked up my first copy of Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone.
I read it.
I bought Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
I read it.
I bought Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
I read it.
And, well, you get the point. I went through that entire series faster than I had ever read anything in my life. I was in love. Completely in love. It was nothing like I’d ever experienced before, that series. And going to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter suddenly felt like a dream come true.
I waited and waited and waited until the day finally came when we packed up, got on the plane, and we were off to Florida. By the time we got to Universal Studios, I was practically running to the get to that Harry Potter park. I’d never been more ready or excited about anything.
It was finally happening.
This is what I had been anticipating for ages.
We got to the entrance to the park and…
It wasn’t open yet.
I’m not sure if we had the dates wrong for the grand opening, or if they were just running behind, but it was definitely not going to happen. I can laugh about the irony of it now. Reading an entire book series just to go to an amusement park, and it not being open yet. But, it was rather devastating for 11 year old me. I have a pretty sad picture of me standing in front of Hogwarts with a sign in the background that says something like, “Coming soon!”
It’s alright though. I mean, at the end of the day, I still had the best time at Universal Studios. I made tons of memories, and I find it pretty funny now that I think about how the park literally wasn’t open after all of that. I hope I will take another trip one day so I can finally experience the park. But, really, I’m just eternally grateful that I did end up reading Harry Potter because of all this.
I love to reflect on what these books, and the entire story, means to me every year on this day. It’s just such a special series, and it was even more special when I found out I shared a birthday with Harry Potter and JK Rowling while reading the books. It felt like I was meant to be reading them, like having that in common was magical.
And it still does feel magical, even nine years later.