Age 12, 1999: I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets with my cousin. We are immediately absorbed. Many of our games of dress-up and imaginative flights after that involve the Potter universe. We decide that she is a Gryffindor and I am a Ravenclaw. My best friend has the third book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which has just come out. This is one of the first books to make me cry that isn't about animals dying (the very emotional scene between Lupin, Sirius, Peter Pettigrew, Harry, and Snape, if you want to know).
Age 13, 2000: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire comes out. It's the first of the Potter novels that I'm able to buy with my own money. I read it in a day; it terrifies me a little, particularly the bookending chapters involving Voldemort and Nagini. My cousin and I love the concept of S.P.E.W. and create badges to wear. My mother expresses concern for the first time that the books are a bit too dark for me to be reading (in hindsight, she may have been right).
Age 14, 2001: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone comes out in theatres. I am amazed by its portrayal of Hogwarts, perfect down to the last detail. Potter merchandise explodes everywhere--you can buy a broom, a Quidditch team t-shirt, a wand. I start reading Potter fanfic and write a few stories of my own, but stick mostly to daydreams and drawing pictures of characters from the books, taping them to my bedroom walls.
Age 15, 2002: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets comes out in theatres. I'm disappointed with the lack of Oliver Wood (having fallen quite in love with Sean Biggerstaff the year prior), but think Kenneth Branagh is amazing. I reread the first three books and have trouble deciding whether I would prefer to marry Lupin or Neville Longbottom.
Age 15, 2003: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix comes out in bookstores. I love Tonks, introduced in this book for the first time, but my mom won't let me dye my hair pink. At the time I find CAPSLOCK!HARRY sort of annoying, but Umbridge is the stuff of nightmares. This book marks my first real experience with spoilers--someone I volunteered with told me before I read it that Sirius is killed by Bellatrix Lestrange.
Age 16, 2004: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban comes out in theatres. It becomes my favorite of the movies. I'm not quite old enough yet to fully appreciate what Cuaron did with the material, but I love the dark fairy tale feeling of it.
Age 17, 2005: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire comes out in theatre. I'm amused by Harry's bedhead mullet and covet Hermione's Yule Ball dress. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince appears on shelves. I LOVE Half-Blood Prince; I like the mixture of "Hogwarts High" teen angst--as my best friend terms it--and the mythology and history of Voldemort and the Horcruxes. I like what Rowling does with Snape. For Halloween this year I dress up as Tonks, making a Weird Sisters shirt and spraying my hair bright pink.
Age 19, 2007: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows arrives in bookstores. I preorder it from Amazon and take a day off work to read it. I cry...a lot. My favorite characters die. Rowling does fantastic things with the end, having her cake and eating it too. I'm in college now and amazingly have very few people to talk about this book with. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix comes out in theatres. It's perfect and amazing and I love David Yates, though the Tonks fan in me thinks that Natalia Tena's hair is too long. I've grown up faster than Harry has, but the magic hasn't died.
Age 21, 2009: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince comes out in theatres. It's even better than OotP. I have a slight crush on Snape now, mostly because of Alan Rickman. It edges ahead of Azkaban as my favorite of the films.
Age 23, 2010: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I comes out in theatres at Christmastime. It's about the best Christmas present ever. It, too, is amazing and perfect, a beautiful translation of text to screen. I see it three times in theatre. I cry buckets even though I don't even really like Dobby. I shudder to think that in the summer the movies will be ending and wonder how much I'll cry then.
Age 23, 2011: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II comes to theatres. I see it with my best friend, a fitting end to the journey we started with Harry a decade before. I dress up as Tonks, she wears Gryffindor chic. I watch Tonks and Lupin die; George Weasley dies; Snape dies; Harry and Voldemort die. I cry even more than I thought I would. The movie is fantastic, gorgeously shot, frightening, thought-provoking. I even like the epilogue.
I don't know what else to say. So much of my life in terms of entertainment has been wrapped up in Harry, Hermione, and Ron's adventures. There is a glorious bank of books and films for future generations to enjoy, and for me to look over and continue to love. It's impossible for me to consider these artifacts impartially. They may not be perfect; they may not be high literature or significant filmic masterpieces, but they are of paramount importance to me and many others--those who grew up with Harry and those who are just discovering him. As an adult now I see things in the stories that were always there, but which weren't apparent. My least favorite of the books are suddenly better: Goblet of Fire becomes even more frightening, Order of the Phoenix is more understandable and subtle. The themes of the books are clearer and more profound, the sacrifices of the characters more chilling and more moving. The less obvious heroes (Ginny and Molly Weasley particularly) hold their own with Harry, Hermione, and Dumbledore. I can trace my interest in writing to early attempts at fanfiction. My love of fantasy literature developed largely because of the Potter books.
As a booklover and as a librarian, all I really want is for everyone to have a Harry Potter in their lives. Whether that's Twilight, the Percy Jackson series, Anita Blake, Hemingway short stories, Miss Marple--that's up to you. What I want is for people to have stories that move them, stories that are important to them.