Pass the red bricks that adorn the dark walkway near the rear of Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida and you could find yourself somewhere Magical. This is where words become real. You may even see an elf or two.
Up until the age of eleven I despised reading. I was an active child with a big yard and a tree house. There was simply no time for the trivial words and pictures of others. What could they invent on page that I couldn’t cook up in my own vivid imagination? My days belonged to defending our ship from being invaded by pirates. Or storming castles where milady was presently captured. However, my days did not involve much downtime. Even at night I would find ways to entertain myself, whether through blocks, legos, my action figure collection, or lincoln logs – yes, I did play with lincoln logs.
My sole bit of literature came from my mom and dad reading to me before bed. When I was younger my, mother would read the Berenstein Bears or Casey at the Bat, and then when I had fallen asleep, she would carry me to my room, to continue the story in my dreams. As I got older, my father took over the job of night-reader. We transitioned from picture-centric books about cartoon characters to more complex stories like Hans Christian Anderson and Jacob’s Ladder. My father would sit in my room reading while I would lay in my loft bed, drifting in and out of consciousness. Because of this, the following night would always involve some level of doubling back. That was, however, until my dad began a new chapter titled, “The Boy Who Lived”.
As he read through the pages describing a 10 year old boy who lived under the stairs, I was no longer on my back but on my stomach. I stared intensely over my bunk, with head on hands, at every word my father read. Things changed drastically. It was no longer a pleasant transition into sleep. Nighttime became a battle with fatigue, clasping tightly on to the wakeful world, and dreading those four despicable words, “It’s time for bed.”
“No, daddy, no. More. More please!”
This routine continued for some time. But by the 5th chapter, it was unbearable. My emotions were so intertwined with Harry Potter’s that trying to fall asleep after reading was torturous. I finally made a decision to go off alone. I would read by myself.
I’m not sure how my father felt about being subtracted out of the reading equation, but he most likely experienced the bittersweet feelings of seeing one of his nine children become independent. At the veracity at which I devoured the rest of the book, I doubt he had any objections. My imagination mixed with the prompts of the page led me to a world of magic I had never experienced. I loved the book so much that I went back and read it two more times. By this point the second book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, had just been release so I tore through that as well. And this is where the “Hogwarts Express” picked up speed.
My reasoning was simple. If books like Harry Potter exist, are there others like it?
Thus began my love of reading. I tore through any kind of fantasy fiction I could find. First was the Golden Compass series by Philip Pullman, and then the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. Later, came the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. My love of fiction branched to science fiction and those works of Isaac Asimov and Orson Scott Card. Which then led to non-fiction, and biographies, and so on and so forth.
Now, 18 years later, my fire for reading has not waned. It is as strong as ever. I have moved on from the simple yet profound works of J.K. Rowling to the more complex of Chesterton and MacDonald, Dostoyesvsky and Tolstoy, Muggeridge and Hemingway, authors so talented in creating layers of meaning within their literature, one can spend years trying to turn their pages. But despite that evolution, my passion for Potter has always remained just under the surface. When I watch the Potter films, there are and have always been a deep seated nostalgia, a yearn to enter into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter I first read about so long ago. Never would I have imagined actually being able to accomplish such a fairy tale.
Lucky for me and the millions of other who believe, there still exists in the world bait of magic. There are places where dreams become reality, and the words written on paper transfigure into the tangible.
That is why my wife and I traveled to Orlando.
Eighteen years ago I picked up a book which bewitched my imagination. I fell in love with reading and that has helped to transform my world. Now, nearly two decades after I picked up that book, I get to step into its pages.