One day in December 2000, I received a gift for Eid. My mom had a habit of leaving us little gift bags, filled with board games and books and goodies, by our bedroom doors the night before Eid. As I clutched my blanket with my henna-covered hands, I saw a shadow move outside my door.
The next morning as I ripped through my goodies bag, I found the usual gifts of chocolate, board games, and a book. I had seen this particular book in my elementary school’s library. I had passed it by, numerous times, as I scoured the library for something new to read; always something new to read. It had two boys on the cover, one a ginger and one with jet black hair, flying a blue car. Another one of these strange books had another boy with black hair (he looked sort of familiar to the one in the blue car) on the back of a strange car with a girl behind him. What is up with these books, I thought to myself snobbishly, as I tossed them aside for old Babysitters’ Club books.
And this was my exact reaction when I saw it in my gift bag. The book with the blue car on the front with the ginger kid and the…non-ginger kid.
“These books are so weird,” I told my mom, putting it back in the bag.
She raised her eyebrow. “Have you read it before?”
I shook my head.
“Well then, don’t judge a book by the cover.” She placed the book in my hands and went into the kitchen to make us Eid breakfast.
That night, as I lay in my bed with nothing to read, I rummaged in my gift bag and found the book with the blue car. I studied it. I read the back.
Sighing, I tucked myself into my canopy bed, wrapping the comforter around my ten-year old body. I opened it, skipped past the strange insignia and useless pages in the front and reached “Chapter One: The Worst Birthday”. It was snowing outside, softly and silently. I began to read.
And that’s when the spell began.
Not to be cliche or make it sound cheesy, but I still remember the feeling of warmth and contentment I felt spreading all over my body, as I lay in my warm bed, in my tiny town house in Mississauga, as I read about Vernon Dursley yelling at his nephew, Harry, for not being able to control his screeching owl.
The next day, after I told my mom how much I loved it, she gave me a knowing smile. When I told her that told her that she had bought me the 2nd book and I wanted to start with the 1st book, she looked at her receipt and found out that she had somehow been accidentally charged for both the first and second. Not sure how that happened, but it worked out in my favour as she picked it up the next day for me after work.
And that’s how it all began.
Some of my friends and family members don’t get it. They just don’t see the big deal about Harry and all the hooplah. Maybe if I was them, I might feel the same way. But hopefully not.
I think part of it has to do with the timing. I was 10 years old in the year 2000; not exactly at the beginning of Harry‘s life, but pretty darn close. The media buzz hadn’t really gotten too crazy yet (or if it had, I lived in a bubble and had no idea) so I gobbled the books up, recommending them to friends everywhere I went. My best friend, who is also a bookworm like me, discovered it at the same time so our conversations during these years became subsumed with potential plot ideas, possible future romances, the inevitable outcome of the whole series, excitement over the movie, hype over casting, and anticipation for the next books. We even planned to audition for roles in the fourth film; she was auditioning for Luna Lovegood and I was auditioning for Parvati Patil, if I remember correctly. She was going to put on a blond wig over her hijab.
While I never did receive a letter to my audition letter (read plea) to be cast as Parvati Patil, I did grow up Potter.
By the time I got into them in 2000, 4 books had been released and I ate them all up, begging my mom to buy me the next one and the next one after that. I dragged the books with me halfway across the world to Pakistan when I went to visit family in 2001.
I had 3 more years until the release of the 5th book in 2003, but I kept myself busy. The Internet provided a wealth of information for me and I spent hours on Mugglenet poring over articles, pictures, casting news, speculation, interviews with JK Rowling, taking quizzes and polls and doing much more.
Ignorant of Chapters at this point and midnight release parties, I woke up at the ungodly hour of 8 o’clock on June 21st, 2003 to walk up the hill to the Toys R Us to stand by the doors, in sweat and with excitement, to wait for the doors to open. There was no one else there.
I devoured the fifth one too with a few days and returned to the Internet with renewed fervour the next day, to talk about the book and to speculate what was going to happen next. This is all before the age of Facebook and Twitter, mind you.
Over the 2 year period before Half-Blood Prince was released, I discovered fanfiction. As an aspiring writer, I loved writing fanfiction, especially since the universe was already created and all I had to do was create an alternate universe in which the characters would interact. I scoured various fanfiction websites, posted my stories on all of them, beta-read for other fanfiction writers, commented and speculated, staked my inbox for for reviews, and wrote and wrote and wrote. I cranked out 13 fanfics during this time, of which 4 were roughly 100,000 words long. And I loved it.
I won the 6th book in a contest and bought an extra copy to give to my cousin, who I had successfully converted into a fan. Him, my best friend and I created a podcast, Magicast, which we thought was going to rock Mugglecast and Pottercast out of the waters, but alas it didn’t go far. I attended midnight showings of the fifth movie, scoured Jo’s website for secret clues to the next book’s release date, entered contests at a furious rate, sent a letter to Jo and wrote the WOMBAT test on her website to have my “magic tested” (for which I received an “Outstanding” grade).
And as I approached the release of the final book, I grew sad. It was the end of an era. The beginning of the series for me had coincided with my move to a new city away from the town of my birth, and so I took comfort in Harry and his perils. As the release of the 7th book grew closer, I reached the end of high school and what is often considered the age of maturity and so it signalled the end of my childhood. I’ve always thought of myself as a Peter Pan, who will never grow up, but it was still the end of the era in which I grew up and enjoyed.
And as the hours tick by till the release of the final part of the Deathly Hallows movie, its another end of an era for me: graduating from university and being thrust out into the “real world”. While I’ve never been a big fan of the movies (I was always the girl in the bag gnashing her teeth, saying things like, “That’s not the colour of Hermione’s dress!” or Hagrid’s hut doesn’t look like that!”) I still grew emotional as I watched the video of Jo and the trio saying goodbye at the premier last week, my eyelashes getting tangled with tears.
I’ve grown busy and weary over the years, tired of school and of being an “adult”. I miss the days when a wish was granted by a simple “Please Mom” and anticipation sweetened every word on my lips as I read them. Despite all of this, I still feel that feeling of warmth and contentment sweeping over me, as I open a Harry Potter book and reread them for the thousandth time. My heart still races when Snape faces off with Voldemort, my toes still tingle when Peter Pettigrew escapes from Lupin and the trio, my mouth still gapes wide open when Sirius falls through the veil, and my eyes still well up with tears when I watch Snape’s protect Harry furiously.
Pottermore is set to launch in the Fall, the books are finally going to be released as e-books, they will probably be remade into movies someday and the franchise will continue. But for me, I’ll always remember the warm night in December of 2000 when I opened to the first page of a book with two kids in a flying car on the cover, and started reading about a boy with a lightning bolt scar and a screeching owl, and fell in love.
That’s all there is; there isn’t any more.
Thanks for reading,
P.S- Check out the article that inspired me to write this post: Growing up Potter!