According to all the news media, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published twenty years ago this week. I had no clue about Harry Potter for years after it was initially published. Twenty years ago, I had just finished my first year of law school and was doing a judicial internship while trying to write a novel. (Don’t worry, that novel was burned and can never see the light of day!) My internship was in Wisconsin, the hubby was flying out of St. Paul, Minnesota. We lived somewhere in the middle and only had one car. I had the car during the day to drive to the internship, while the hubby took the car at night. We had no money. I don’t think we even had a television. The only things I remember from that summer are fifty cent tap beer at the local bar, camping trips, and the dog figuring out how to open the refrigerator and subsequently eating an entire pound of cheese. Harry Potter wasn’t even on my radar.
It wasn’t until my book club chose Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone as its September 2000 book selection that I discovered Harry Potter. Just to be perfectly honest here, my book club abandoned a history book about the Great Depression and slotted in Harry Potter instead. I struggled through half of the history tome, while everyone just abandoned it! I was not a happy camper. (Note: The book now serves as the prop to keep my living room window open.)
Imagine my surprise when I went to the English-language department of the bookstore and discovered an entire table filled with Harry Potter books! There was the British edition, the American edition, and – of course – the Dutch edition. What the heck is all this about? At the time, I had a firm rule. I read every single page of every single book club selection so, despite my annoyance in regard to the history tome, I was reading this book. (I’ve calmed down since then. Blame it on old age or just plain exhaustion with reading books I didn’t like. Whatever.)
I sighed and opened the darn book. To my great surprise, I freaking loved it. Let me rephrase: LOVED IT. I had never read anything like this before. I never read so-called children’s fantasy books. The Chronicles of Narnia? What’s Narnia? The only book in a similar genre I’d read was The Hobbit. And that was because it was the only book in English I happened to have with me while living in Germany some thirty-years ago when English books were hard to find and no one had even thought of the idea of a Kindle yet. Don’t even ask me how many times I read Gone with the Wind in German. It’s embarrassing.
For me, Harry Potter is escapism at its best. You open one of the HP books and dive into another world. We say that about books all the time, but it’s actually true with HP. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, in fact, let me escape at a moment in time when I really, really needed it. You see in 2000, I was still young and by definition stupid. So, when I ruptured my Achille’s tendon two days before I was to fly to the US for Christmas, I didn’t cancel my trip. See, told you. Stupido!
The flight to the Texas from Amsterdam was horrid. Despite calling the airline in advance and explaining the situation, I did not get a bulkhead seat. Nope, my leg with its heavy cast was stuck on my husband’s lap for the entire trip. I couldn’t leave it down as the foot was severely swollen and flying only makes that worse. Who would have thought the return trip would be worse?
We were flying out of Texas on New Year’s Eve because it’s cheaper and we were pinching our pennies at the time. Unfortunately, Texas had a bizarre snowstorm and – for obvious reasons – wasn’t prepared for it. There was, in fact, only one de-icing machine for the entire airport. First, we had to wait in the departure hall for several hours. Then, we finally boarded the flight only to be delayed again and end up sitting in the plane on the runway for a few more hours.
What does one do when one is in severe pain (the Dutch may have a lot of recreational drugs but they don’t believe in pain killers) and stuck at an airport and then in a plane? Read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, naturally. HP may not have saved my life or anything, but he certainly got me through a tough moment in my life.