Tonight the town where I live — a good town, in many ways, for reasons like this — threw a block party for the Harry Potter release. They closed off the street, erected a portable movie screen, and gave a free showing of the fourth movie; there were prizes and games and snacks from the shops. This was all in front of the one independent new-books bookstore in town (the large chain bookstore, a few blocks away, was also having a party, and people were going back and forth).
Many people were dressed up, and there were many kids, but also many teenagers, young adults, older people, all full of contagious cheerful excitement. Finally there was a countdown to midnight; perhaps 500 people standing in the street, waiting for the doors of the bookshop to open wide and the new book to be distributed.
They were giving them out by ticket, which I didn’t have; I didn’t get a copy after all. But that wasn’t really the reason I spent my evening there; I went to watch, to watch the joy on the first kid’s face as he was hoisted on his father’s shoulders waving his copy about, watch the people scrambling into the shop, watch people opening up to the first page as they walked away, engrossed within steps. I went to watch the small boy sitting on the curb in the midst of the milling crowd, legs crossed as he read the final chapter of the sixth book. I watched children, people my own age, people my father’s age, all clutching their copies, joyful and tired.
I come back to a half dozen blog posts about events around the country. Just imagine: a story that everyone knows — your friends, your family, your neighbors, people around the world.
This is what it must be like to have the entire world temporarily convert to your religion, or suddenly agree with the truth of how you see things. Like many emotional things lately, this evening made me cry a little; for I have been that child sitting on the curb engrossed in reading my entire life, and to see it celebrated is something rare and special. In the end, it doesn’t matter how the story comes out; the mere fact of existence of stories is enough to make the world better.