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Harry Potter: Awesome or Mega-Awesome?

It's that day. Yeah. Chances are if you're under 50 and have any contact with the waking world, you've read the Harry Potter series multiple times and/or seen all the movies. And now the last movie's coming out, and there will be mass sobbing in theaters across the nation.

Since this is the last major Harry Potter release (at least for any time in the foreseeable future), I think it's a good opportunity to tell Harry introduction stories. What this means is how you first encountered the series. My story's fricking weird, and I hope you guys have some good ones (if you would be so kind as to share them):

My family used to spend every summer in a little place called Chautauqua, NY. It's a gated community of sorts. It has its own library, amphitheater, opera house, playhouse, cinema, belltower-by-the-lake, and it was the birthplace of the American "Literary and Scientific Circle." Not sure what that means, because the CLSC was just a bookclub, but anyway. It's a cool place, where you bike or walk everywhere and there're hardly any cars. I love it more than almost anywhere else on earth.

In 1999, when I was 14, I was obsessed with Anjelica Huston. Majorly obsessed. For realsies. I read an interview where she said the last book she'd read was Charming Billy, so I had to get it. I ordered it from the Chautauqua Public Library, and one day they called and said it was in. So I walked on down there, picked it up and started reading on my walk home.

My mother is maybe the most overprotective mother on the planet, aside from those ladies who put their kids in plastic bubbles (that happens, right? yeah). At 14, I wasn't allowed to walk down the sidewalk out of sight of my house if I was alone. Chautauqua was different, what with the big gate and all, so I had a certain degree of autonomy, but since every other warning from my mom was about strangers, I was somewhat freaked out/thrown into a panic when a middle-aged-to-elderly man started walking next to me on my way home. He finally bent down to try to see the cover of my book.

"Oh, Charming Billy. We read that last year in CLSC."

"Mm-hmm." *keeps walking*

"You know what you might like? Have you ever heard of Harry Potter?"

"No." *slows down slightly but keeps walking*

"Well, it might be a bit young for you, but it's about this boy who's an orphan and is raised by his aunt and uncle, who hate him, and one day he finds out he's a wizard and goes off to a wizarding school."

*pauses* "Really."

"Yes. I think it's one of the books for the youth section of the CLSC. You should look at it."

"I will. Thanks."

And then, he disappeared. Bam! That man's entire purpose in my life was to 1) freak me out, and 2) Tell me about Harry Potter's existence.

The youth portion of the CLSC had a program where you could read four of the books on their list, write four essays, and then you would get a book off the list for free. Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone was on the list. My family was leaving in a week and a half. I turned the last essay in the day we were leaving, grabbed my copy, and read as we drove to Niagara Falls. Halfway there, I finished it and loved it so much I told my parents we had to stop at a mall to get the second one.

I'm pretty sure if you gathered up all the love people have for J.K. Rowling into one small space, it could generate a second Big Bang. That made sense in my head. Her characters are so beloved, and so wonderful, and so human; I don't think I've met their equal. I and a myriad of others will be sad beyond reason tonight when the final movie ends, but that's counterbalanced by the joy that has been brought to life by J.K. Rowling over the past decade. I have never before seen a series that could bind so many people in happiness. I hope we'll all keep reading the series and loving JKR more each time.

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