Disclaimer: If your gag reflex is easily triggered by sappy words, you might want to leave this post. Actually, there’s no doubt about it, you need to leave this post. May I interest you in something more sarcastic? Check out ANY of my other posts. Seriously, I won’t be upset.
Now that all of the “hard asses” are out of here, all aboard the tearjerker express!
Today, I want to talk about a series of books that defined my childhood. This will most likely be outrageously heartfelt (cheesy) and sensitive (corny). I recommend you take a moment to locate your tissues now. I am not responsible for any ruined shirts caused by your sniffles or runny mascara. In fact, you might be better off just throwing a blanket over yourself now. E.T. style would be the most effective.
I’m going to try to keep the angst to a minimum, but I can’t make any promises. You have been warned.
I used to find it strange when a book was credited as having “saved someone’s life”. Did the book stop a bullet for you? Did it catch a grenade for you? Jump in front of a train for you? (Can you tell which song is stuck in my head?). Whenever I heard someone say this about a book, I would get this image in my head of a book with tiny arms and a sword. The book always had a moustache and spoke with the voice of Antonio Banderas. It seemed overly dramatic and cliché to me. I loved books, but none of them had saved me from a burning building or a car accident.
After a great deal of reflection, I get it. While my Harry Potter books never sprouted arms and fended off some terrible foe like the Boogeyman, they did provide me with an escape and a soft place to land when I needed it. When you’re a child, that’s a wonderful thing. Finding solace in the pages of a book is an irreplaceable gift.
I was ten years old when my Nanny (grandmother) bought me the first three books of the Harry Potter series. I was not impressed. My favorite book, up to that point, was Where the Red Fern Grows. I had no interest in reading about a boy wizard with crooked glasses and hand-me-down clothes. Where were the puppies?!
My Nanny also gave my brother the same three books. Unlike me, he devoured them immediately. He turned each page with such ferocity that I’m surprised he didn’t get multiple paper cuts. Instead of sparking my interest in the books, this just made me inch away even further. If my brother liked them, then there’s no way I’m reading them. Boys and girls do not like the same things. That’s one of the symptoms of cooties, obviously.
A few months later, my parents divorced. My mom and I packed our things and moved to Oklahoma, but my dad and brother stayed in Arkansas. All of a sudden, I was in a new room, in a different state, with no one to play Nintendo with. I know it’s obvious to say, but I missed my brother a lot.
When I unpacked a few of my boxes, I found my Harry Potter books. Somehow in the confusion of the move, I ended up with his copy of Chamber of Secrets as well. It was easy to see the difference between his copy and mine. The pages of his copy were dog-eared and ruffled, but my book wasn’t even scuffed from the move. I immediately knew that I had to read these books. I saw it as a way to feel close to him again. Luckily, even at ten, I had the discipline to read Sorcerer’s Stone first. I told myself that reading his copy of Chamber of Secrets would be my reward for finishing the first book.
Of course, I quickly realized that reading the Sorcerers Stone was enough of a reward in itself.
I felt transported. I always loved reading, but a book had never grabbed me the way Harry Potter did. When Harry escaped his miserable life in the cupboard under the stairs, I felt like he turned around and led me out of mine as well.
Armed with the Goblet of fire (it had been released by then), I started at my new school that fall. I was picked on almost immediately. I was a pretty easy target. I was new, too skinny, and had too many freckles. I know this isn’t anything new, bullying is an epidemic. However, when you’re only ten, it’s disheartening. During recess on my first day, I sat by the door and read. While every other kid was off playing on the jungle gyms, I was helping Harry battle a dragon in the Triwizard Tournament.
I know this sounds awfully pitiful, but I was okay with this. I was much too clumsy for playground equipment, and I liked reading.
Instead of rising to their taunts, I would read. Eventually, they moved on as kids often do. I found a few kind hearted friends. I grew to like my new surroundings and the new people in them.
When I did have bad days, I would read Harry Potter. When I had my heart broken for the first time, I read Harry Potter. When I slammed my fingers in the car door and had to get stitches, I read Harry Potter.
For the first time, I felt empowered. It didn’t matter what happened at school or at home. I had something spectacular hidden within the pages of these books. I had an entire world of magic at my fingertips. I felt like the luckiest kid in the world. (Honestly, I still do).
Harry Potter defined my childhood. That may seem like a pretty bold statement, but I know that some of you know exactly what I mean. Maybe it wasn’t Harry Potter that meant so much to you, but there was a book. The book. The book that seemed to tingle and glow in your hands. The book that was always the first one you spotted when you looked at your bookshelf. The book whose pages you knew just by the feel of them, whose binding you could recognize just by touch.
Harry Potter is exactly that for me. I can remember every excited trip to the bookstore to pick up the newest volume. I remember every time I read that first page for the first time. I remember every morning I woke up with one of the books still in my hands. I remember every tear stained page. I remember every crack in the binding. It’s familiar to me. My second home is in those pages. Always. Until the very end.
I think I need a tissue…
I think books can be a powerful force. Do you have a book that you feel this way about? Which book is it? Tell me about it, I’d love to know.