It’s summer, and everywhere I look, something pops out to remind me that it is time for summer reading, and for a long time, summer–and July in particular–meant a new Harry Potter book was on the horizon.
I bought my copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone from the University of Oregon bookstore shortly after it was first published. It was a little book in the corner, and I liked the pictures on the cover, and I have always loved fantasy, so the subject matter appealed to me. The world at large had yet to learn of The Boy Who Lived. There was no hype, no movie deals, and no anticipation. I loved the first book, and by the time the second one came out, the hype was rising. I bought the second and third books when they were first published and loved them too. (I became so absorbed in reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azakaban that I accidentally let my 9th grade honors English class read for an entire period instead of ten minutes at the beginning of class!) By the time the fourth book was published, the world-wide hype was truly underway, and bookstores had started throwing midnight book release parties. I spent several years with one warm July night dedicated to standing in line outside Powell’s, answering Harry Potter trivia questions, eating snacks, being spotted by my high school students who were lucky enough to be allowed to come into the city to stay up late and buy the newest Harry Potter, and generally having fun. We always bought two copies, so my husband and I could read the book simultaneously. By the time the last book in the series was released, midnight release parties were a regular summer tradition. WIth the added anticipation caused by the movies, marketing, and an additional year between the final books, the world was at a fever pitch. I knew that I had to read this book right away.
This summer things were a bit more complicated. For starters, I was on crutches in July, and had been for six months. I am a very stubborn patient, so when I realized that the midnight release party meant standing in line for hours on one leg and two crutches, it was not going to stop me. But then, we were given a trip to Hawaii by my husband’s boss. No one sensible turns down an all-expenses paid trip to Hawaii, so July found me on Molokai, a beautiful, tiny island with Hawaii’s highest percentage of Native Hawaiians, the country’s most inaccessible National Park, and not a lot of any infrastructure beyond a tiny grocery store, some homes, some campsites, an elementary school, a runway strip for small planes, and a police car. Notably lacking was any sort of bookstore. Molokai felt like the last remaining place in the world that was not going to be selling the final Harry Potter book on its release date. (On the mainland, I’m pretty sure that if you bought a car that day, a Harry Potter book was thrown in for good measure.)
My husband and I are nothing if not resourceful, though, and we were certainly not going to miss the chance to read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows ASAP. We discovered that there was a ferry connecting Molokai and Maui, the closest, and significantly busier and more touristy, island. While the ferry predominantly allowed locals to commute from their homes to a bigger island that had jobs, others could buy a ticket if they showed up at the dock before its 6:00am departure and there was space available. We figured that we could hop over to the other island, where there was bound to be a bookstore of some sort.
However, as the July 21 release date drew ever closer, we realized that we were in the path of a large tropical storm. It hit the night before, with pouring rain and strong winds. It was not destructive or a hurricane, and really only affected our vacation in that we closed some of the windows in the house and stayed out of the pool, but boat navigation was stopped in the Maui Channel because of the storm. We anticipated that the next day, however, would be fine, so we got up early and were at the dock at 6am. Space was available on the ferry! Our book quest was underway.
We failed to take into account the fact that oceans are big, and storm waves don’t instantly subside just because it has stopped raining. The initial leg of the ferry crossing was fine. Locals chatted and ate their breakfasts, and we looked at the pre-dawn gray beginning to lighten up enough to see out the windows. But as we began to see, what we saw of the sea was…waves. Big waves. Shortly, waves were crashing high above the windows in the ferry, and we realized that for at least some of our crossing, we were more submarine than ferry. This was disconcerting. Within the first half an hour, the ferry increasingly rose and tossed on the mighty waves, and I realized that I am not a good sailor. I managed to find a Dramamine and force it past my clenched jaw, and then proceeded to hold absolutely still and not speak or open my mouth for any reason for the remaining time of the crossing. Anxious crew members silently handed me a bag, obviously praying that I would not mess up their clean ferry by barfing on it, and I miserably watched the waves washing over the windows and assumed that my death was nigh. Eventually, after the longest two hour trip in history, we safely reached the shores of Maui and debarked in Lahaina. I wobbled off the gangplank and across the street to a park, where I slumped against a banyan tree. I would have kissed the ground, but being on crutches made that a near impossibility. So I kissed the tree instead. It was 8 o’clock in the morning, so everything was still closed, and we stayed under the tree for an hour until I felt like I was, indeed, still alive, and shops started opening, and then set out to resume our quest.
The crutches made navigating the tourist thronged sidewalks and small shops slow-going, but I stubbornly crept along, on the lookout for a bookstore. We found jewelry stores and art galleries, a man with exotic birds standing on his head, many, many tour boat operators who offered to take us deep sea fishing (like I wanted to go back on the ocean!), and lots of shops where we could buy the usual tourist stuff like Hawaiian shirts and bathing suits and silly T-shirts. Lahaina also has many restaurants along the waterfront, and we eventually stopped for a lovely lunch, to treat my rapidly blistering hands and give my shattered ankle a break. After several slow passes along the half mile or so of harbor shops, we were absolutely certain that there were zero places selling the Harry Potter book. We needed a new plan. Regrouping on a bench near the man with exotic birds on his head, we chatted about birds and considered our options. We did not have a car and no taxis appeared in this largely pedestrian area. We did not have cell phones or a map, but sources (Bird Man) told us that there was a mall about seven miles away. That was obviously out of the question, but then I had a brilliant idea! Was there a big grocery store nearby? Yes! There was a Safeway about a mile and a half away. Bird Man looked dubious that I could make it that far on crutches, and my husband thought I was insane, for the practical reason that a book is not food, and Safeway did not sell books. I remained determined, refused to complain about my aching leg or blistering hands, and set off, very, very slowly for the Promised Land…Safeway. Eventually we got there, and after bickering the whole way about whether or not this jaunt was insane and/or pointless, we reached the automatic sliding doors of Safeway and the moment of truth. I crutched forward, the doors slid open, and the interior was revealed. We were face first with a giant display of pineapple…and Harry Potter books. Quest accomplished, we bought two copies and some pineapple for good measure and sat down to read.
When school resumed that fall, and everyone, literally EVERYONE, was talking about how they got their Harry Potter books, I had the best summer reading story.