Last year I celebrated my 21st birthday. I wanted to do it big. Besides somehow surviving the bars, I chose to seize the opportunity of a lifetime.
Let me begin by saying that I am a self-proclaimed Harry Potter freak. Like, beyond the usual. Not only have I read all of the books multiple times, but I have visited all major filming sites in England, sat in THE chair of The Elephant House in Edinburgh, attended opening day at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando….kind-of-maybe have the lightening bolt scar tattooed on my backside….you get the picture.
SO. Near the end of September last year, while I was supposed to be studying for a Spanish exam in the library (whoops), I somehow stumbled upon J. K. Rowling’s website for the first time. While perusing the pages, something caught my eye: she was going to be holding a book signing in NYC as a promotion for her latest novel, The Casual Vacancy. My heart exploded. This was my chance. I was going. Tickets sold out? No problem. I paid six times the price on a re-sale site, plus airfare, plus hotel. I booked my tickets on September 30th, and flew to New York on October 15th. To say I was ecstatic doesn’t even begin to cover it.
For whatever reasons, my parents had their qualms about me traveling to NYC alone, despite the fact that I had previously spent four months alone in Europe. Apparently New York is scarier in their minds, so my mom accompanied me. We actually had a blast, which was a very pleasant surprise. However, week before our departure, I received a generic email from the website I used to purchase my ticket saying that the event had been cancelled. I called the box office of the David H. Koch Center in New York in hysterics, but they assured me the website was wrong—Ms. Rowling would surely not cancel. Up until the day of my flight, I was uncontrollably nervous that something would go wrong. My flight would get cancelled. HER flight would get cancelled. The venue would light itself on fire. ANYTHING. I was so nervous. Well, the flight and the event went off without a hitch. I couldn’t have asked for anything better. Not only did I already have a 14th row seat, but my mom somehow got a FREE ticket (yes, I was jealous) inside from the sympathetic theater owner himself who thought she was such a good mom for traveling with me, that she deserved a seat. I guess it really does pay to be a good person sometimes. I was able to sit with my mother in 7th row center.
I repeat, 7th row center.
As the crowd full of Harry Potter fans waited with bated breath, J. K. Rowling was introduced and stepped elegantly onto the stage. I will be honest and tell you that the moment I saw her black heels emerge from stage right, I burst into tears and leapt to my feet in applause, just as everyone around me did the same. We listened to an hour-long discussion with Joanne, including a live reading of an excerpt from The Casual Vacancy. She was charming, humble, witty. I was entranced. Do I sound like a psycho? Okay, maybe a little, but seriously this was the night of my life. The woman who had shaped so many things in my life was sitting in front of me talking about what inspires HER. When she had concluded, a representative of the theater came on stage to inform us that we would be ushered out, row by row, into the lobby where she was set up to sign fresh copies of her book. Unfortunately, she was allowed to sign The Casual Vacancy only. No other books, or Harry Potter memorabilia, or my shoulder so I could get it tattooed immediately afterward in a seedy New York tattoo parlor….nothing like that. As we waited in line, I got more and more excited by the second. The line was moving fast, and while it seemed I was the only one who had planned something to say besides “h-h-h-hi,” I was still scared that the moment would past by too quickly. My mom stood in front of me in line as we were presented with our books, open to the appropriate title page. It just so happens that I was dressed to the nines in a sleek red sweater dress, complimented by gold accent jewelry to illustrate my Gryffindor pride. My mom stepped up to the table and said to Jo with pride, “You just made my daughter’s life tonight.” With a warm smile and a glance in my direction, Jo stopped and stared for a moment. She replied, “Well, you have a very stunning daughter.”
I don’t even have words.
I didn’t then either.
My breath caught in my throat and I smiled as big as the sky. As I stepped up to take my turn, I held my hand out, waiting for her to finish her signature and shake it. Instead of a quick handshake though, she stopped, set down her things, and held my hand in midair like a supportive friend. She stared right through me and with tears in my eyes, I said, “Thank you for the magic. You have done so much for me.” She smirked and released my hand, bowed her head and said, “Thank you, that—that means so much.” I grudgingly walked away, tears streaming down my face, grasping my book as my only link to the moment I had just shared with this woman who had changed my life. I practically had to be dragged out of the venue by my mother, who thought I was a mentalpath for being so touched by this seemingly simple moment.
I’m sure those of you who just took the time to read this think I’m a mentalpath too. However, I dare you to look inside your heart and imagine meeting the one person you look up to the most, the one person you think has changed the world for the better, the one person you thought was unattainable.
Imagine getting the opportunity to shake their hand and thank them.
That’s the mentalpath feeling I’m talking about.
Thanks again, Jo. For the magic. 2 months ago