A Birthday Card and Love Letter

To the dear, amazing, wonderful and incredible author, world builder and inspiration, J. K. Rowling,

(And also, to the fictional character who we all wish was real, Harry James Potter,)

I want to you wish you an incredible birthday. Many months ago, in May of 2009, I wrote a short little piece about how the Harry Potter books were the first ones I read on my own. I’d like to go further now, and tell the story again, because I truly believe that without the Harry Potter books, I wouldn’t have become the reader I am today. If I wouldn’t have become the reader I am, I wouldn’t have begun to write. I wouldn’t have discovered the wonders of dozens of other authors, their worlds, their views and their legacies.

But it all started with the eleven-year old wizard, forced to live in a cupboard under the stairs, that was invented by you, Miss Rowling. And I’d like to share the story of how these books changed my life, and why I’m so grateful to you.

When I was eight years old, my chief activities were playing with my friends and watching television. I was a TV kid. When I was even younger and my mother taught me how to read in English, I fought tooth and nail against it. Remember, I’d learned Hebrew at school with everyone else, but my mother wanted me to be as fluent in English as I was becoming in Hebrew. I was already bilingual, but she knew that if I didn’t learn to read and write in English as a child, I’d probably lose a lot of the benefits of being so.

By the time I was eight I knew how to read in both languages, but I didn’t like to. I liked being read to – I loved stories, it’s true. It was also the age where my friends and I spent our time inventing stories and plays and games. Stories were a big part of my life, but words on pages weren’t.

Shortly after my ninth birthday, my brother turned thirteen. For his Bar Mitzva, a great-aunt of ours gifted him with the first three Harry Potter books, the third of which had only just come out, all in hardcover. I remember I thought to myself that the books sounded dumb when someone explained to me what they were about. My nine year old mind wasn’t excited, for some reason, by the prospect of a wizard boy.

My brother read the books on his own, of course. I remember distinctly, however, the first evening my mother started reading the first book to me. I was in my bed, the same one I still sleep in now, and she read the first line, “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” I remember cutting in then and saying something along the lines of “But the book’s called Harry Potter! Who are these people?” and my mother smiled and told me to wait patiently and we’d see together.

A couple weeks later, when we reached the chapter titled “Halloween,” while my parents were having their Friday afternoon nap, I read the whole chapter alone without telling anyone. When my mother started reading it to me that night I felt so guilty that I confessed that I’d read it alone. I thought it would hurt her feelings. She was, of course, ecstatic, and gave me her blessing to continue reading the book, and the next and the next, on my own.

So Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (I had the American version) was the first book in English that didn’t have pictures in it (except for those small ones above the chapter titles) that I read most of alone, and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is the first book of this sort that I read completely alone, from start to finish.

It changed my life. I just kept on reading. I discovered a love for fantasy, that led me to dozens of amazing books, and later branched out to every type of book imaginable. If I’d never reached that point where I wanted so badly to know what was about to happen that I picked up the book and read the next chapter alone, then I’d never have become such an avid reader. And being a reader… means the world to me.  I can’t imagine ever living without books. I can’t imagine never reading.

Harry Potter remained with me for years, and he’s still with me. I grew up with him. When he turned seventeen when the seventh and final book came out, I turned seventeen. The books saw me through the beginning, middle and end of puberty, they saw my first kisses and first periods, my first relationship and first breakup. They saw me through my father’s death. I can’t count the times I’ve read them. I know that they’re going to remain with me for my entire life.

Thank you, J. K. Rowling, for creating a world, characters and plot so amazing that you convinced a nine-year old who watched as many hours of TV a day as she could to find the wonder and beauty of words. Thank you, Harry Potter, fictional as you are, for being the star of this author’s books, for being courageous but normal, for being talented but average, for making me feel kinship with you. Thank you, Hermione Granger, the Weasleys, Remus Lupin, Nymphadora Tonks, Serius Black, Fleur Delacour, Luna Lovegood, Dean Thomas,Seamus Finnegan, Neville Longbottom, Lee Jordan, Oliver Wood, Angelina Johnson, Alicia Spinnet, Katie Bell, Parvati Patil, Lavender Brown, Professors of Hogwarts, Rubeus Hagrid, the Malfoys, Dobby and Winky, Messrs. Crouch and Bagman, Tom Marvolo Riddle who grew into Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters, and, last but definitely not least (and I’m probably forgetting so many other good characters here), Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore- thank you for filling eleven (so far) years of my life with your magic.

Awards? Wow. Awards!

I’ve never understood the award thing very much around here – it just confused me a lot at the beginning that people were giving each other all these awards! But now that I’ve gotten two from the lovely Peg at her blog, I’m going to pass them on and abide by their rules.

This award really honors me, since I began this blog assuming I would only post fiction or poetry or articles in it, but with the family of friends that I’ve acquired here, I’ve branched out and written things about my personal life as well, something that I wasn’t comfortable doing at first. This specific award I’d like to give to the following:

1. Mckenzie the Lovely at Unabridged Girl. She writes about everything – her life, her thoughts, her writing. She shares some of her fiction with her readers, and is astonishing, because she’s such a fabulous writer both in and out of fiction writing.

2. Erin the Awesome, at Wild Archaic , who writes short, long, funny and poignant posts, sometimes about daily life, sometimes about authors and books and her opinions. She also publishes her fiction and is, as far as I’m concerned, a fabulous writer.

3. Joy and her group of family and friends here are just about the most versatile group you could find. They write about their opinions, with strong conviction but with an open mind to discussion and great sincerity and experience. You gals are wonderful, and Joy took my under her wing almost from day one, and I genuinely feel that she and her fellow writers are amazing women.

I like this one, because I hope I manage to bring happiness to some readers! Even though sometimes, like my last post, I tend to depress them :/. Now this award applies to the women above, PLUS:

1. J.W. at his blog – his posts have always made me happy because I love to read them. They’re always interesting, and often funny or moving as well.

2. Kit (I’ve just learned your name from the About section in your blog!) at Goggles & Lace, because I swear she’s my emotional twin and I love reading her posts – both fiction and every day.

3. Living Dilbert makes me laugh, laugh, laugh, and she actually matches my cynicism [and hidden hope and tenderness, too] about the world.

4. Dr. Tom Bibey at his bluegrass blog who makes me less cynical because his words are always touching and wonderful.

5. Heather, who’s amazing and sweet and her writing rocks my socks here.

6. Den, who’s a new discovery for me, and he makes me happy with his amazing flash fiction.

7. Eva, who I’m adding late because, well, it’s hard to always remember everyone who makes you happy! But she does. She makes me thing, she makes me wonder, and she makes me happy since I love reading her blog.

In case there’s someone I didn’t list here, I don’t want you to think that you don’t deserve these awards. I don’t actually read blogs that don’t deserve these awards, just so you know!. I’m trying to honor some specific people who have been close to me and meaningful, which is why I limited myself…

Now, I’m supposed to do the following things as well:

Seven Things You Don’t Know About Me:

1. I went to the first Metallica concert in Israel in eleven years last night with Sir B. F. and I had an amazing, awesome, splendiferous time.

2. My astrological sign is Cancer, and I hate that because every family member I’ve known well who’s passed away has died from a cancer.

3. I’m a devoted cat person, but I really, sincerely love all animals that aren’t insects. I love snakes. I love rats.

4. My eyes are green-grey, and their color is probably my favorite thing about my looks and my one vanity.

5. I almost went deaf when I was very small and had to have surgery to fix it. My parents noticed it because I was reading their lips instead of looking at their eyes when they spoke.

6. I’m so pale that I’m see-through. My veins are visible almost everywhere.

7. I love singing.

Ten Things That Make Me Happy (things, not people, so I’ll stick to that so as not to objectify anyone I love!):

1. Weather – I love experiencing sun on my face, rain on the windows, a breeze in my hair.

2. My favorite bands.

3. Books books books books books books books.

4. Computer games [yes, I’m a girl-gamer, and thus, a geek].

5. Pens and paper.

6. The Internet.

7. Blogs.

8. Those certain items of clothing that make me feel special [come on, we all have one or two of those].

9. My tattoo. I love that after five years of wanting it, I finally got it once it was legal to.

10. Chocolate.

Handing In My First Essay

The assignment was simple, but we were all much too nervous to appreciate that fact. The classroom was a buzz of talk throughout the hour and a half lesson as we discussed one theory after another, dissecting one paragraph after the next. The discussion was real and intense, ideas tossed back and forth, shouts of “I agree” and “No, I don’t think so” flying around the room as tongues loosened as we all bathed in the liquor that is shared knowledge and differed opinions.

It was an hour and a half that was free of the normal constraints of time and space. The very walls seemed to change dimensions as the air heated or cooled with the passion of the students, and the time zipped past in a fashion most unlike the normal “classroom time.” Shared craving of healthy discussion and conversation made us all comrades, part of an entity – until our opinions differed and we changed sides in an instant, becoming enemies in a war where the sides respect each other but are each completely adamant about triumphing.

We were working with our essays in front of us, and when my turn came to discuss my passages, I felt like the very air I was breathing was heady – I don’t do that normally, I don’t charge into an opinionated speech based on examples and analysis of a situation – but I did it then, my mind being freed from bonds of shyness or intimidation.

At the end of the lesson after I handed my paper to the professor, I lingered, as I do, to write down the assignments for next lesson in my weekly-planner and to pack up my bag just right. As I got up to leave, I found myself the last one in the room besides my professor, who casually turned to me as he packed up his own bag and said to me “That was very good.” I didn’t understand, so I said “What?” and he replied “That was a very good presentation.”

I stammered some sort of thanks and rushed out of the room. My first week of classes officially ended, and I did something right. Good start.