As I, along with the rest of the world, count down the hours to the release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, I find myself reflecting on just why I love the Harry Potter series so much. Harry and I met when I was twenty years old as I was sitting in a Greyhound bus station. My mom, sisters, and I were homeless. Months of bouncing around ultimately landed us at the bus station one cool, fall day. I remember well the feeling of the crisp air on my tanned face as we carried suitcases and black garbage bags filled with our belongings into the bus terminal.
As we sat there with no money and nowhere to go, my mom took a creased paperback copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone out of her purse. I’m not sure why she had it in her purse, but she handed it to me saying, “Here, read a book. It will help pass the time.”
I had heard of Harry Potter (who hadn’t?!) and my curiosity was piqued, so I opened the book and starting reading. Chapter one: The Boy Who Lived. I loved it already. Clearly, Harry Potter was a survivor, whether he was old enough to realize it or not. A survivor was just the kind of hero I needed at the time.
I’m not sure at what point I disappeared from the bus station and reappeared at Hogwarts alongside Harry, but I do know that it was a welcome escape. For a few hours, I no longer noticed the confusion or pity on passing strangers’ faces as they rushed by with a cup of hot coffee in one hand, dragging a suitcase on wheels with the other. I was too busy observing everything in Diagon Alley and exploring the grounds of Hogwarts. Suddenly, I was so concerned about Harry and Professor Snape that I forgot to be embarrassed by my garbage bag of belongings.
I couldn’t put the book down and once finished, I opened it back up and started reading again. It felt so good to escape. It wasn’t just reading a book, it was reading this book. So many books are about everyday life – relationships, jobs, things gone wrong and attempts to fix them. I didn’t want to read about everyday life. Life at the moment had dealt us a bad blow and I didn’t want to be reminded of that.
Harry allowed me a brief escape into another world, a world where magic was real and I was able to pretend that maybe I, a homeless girl sitting in a bus station, was special too in some way but just didn’t know it yet. This book brought my imagination, which had been temporarily shut down by the harshness of reality, back to life. This book allowed me to see that there is always hope, hope for a tomorrow, hope of survival, hope that good will eventually triumph over bad. I kept the Sorcerer’s Stone with me and whenever I needed to disappear from the bus station or the homeless shelter or wherever we had landed for the time being, I opened it and escaped into the halls of Hogwarts alongside Harry as he learned more about his past and found himself unsure, but hopeful, about his future.
A few months down the road, we did eventually find ourselves with a permanent address again. That’s a very brief version of our ordeal which went on for months and feels like years when I remember it. But a spark of light during that dark time was this brief moment in the bus station, when I met Harry Potter. He changed the way I felt about things and gave me hope for the first time in a long time. He took me away from my situation, even if just for a little while. For that, I will always be grateful. I still pay Harry visits, rereading the stories from time to time. I love them all and while I can’t wait for the Cursed Child, the Sorcerer’s Stone will always have a very special place in my heart.
So, thank you to my mom and to J.K. Rowling for introducing me to Harry Potter. And to the Boy Who Lived from the Girl Who Escaped, it has truly been my pleasure to know you.