We’ve known for nearly four years now how the story of Harry Potter ends.  The book came out on 21 July 2007, and just six days shy of four years later, the final film in the saga will debut.

It’s a bittersweet time for many of us fans.  I didn’t grow up with Harry.  I was a full-fledged grown up when the series debuted in 1997 and when I started reading the British versions in 1998.  But Harry, and the world J.K. Rowling created, captivated me and millions of others.

And I remember, ten  years ago, sitting in a theater with my cousin Jennifer to watch the first film adaptation of the novels.  Looking around at our fellow moviegoers, Jennifer and I commented that it was, fittingly, a rather geeky crowd. And then the film started.  J.K. Rowling’s magical world was alive in front of us. And from then on, I was hooked on the films and looked forward to each release with the same excitement as I did the release of each new book.

I’m excited to see the final movie. I think Deathly Hallows Part 1 is the best adaptation since Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.  I have high hopes for this last installment.  Everything that I have heard is that it does justice to the end of the series.  At the same time, I’m dreading it. When I finished reading  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I walked around in a bit of a fog for a few days, trying to absorb everything that happened. I’m a little bit afraid of going back to that place when I see the movie on Friday.

This post is my “Thank You” to Jo Rowling, first and foremost for the books, but also for the films.  It is also a thank you to the writers, producers, directors, and cast of the films who have lived with this franchise for the last ten years. They brought a wonderful literary world to life on the screen. And although I know plenty of  people will disagree with this statement (we are protective of our beloved characters, after all), I think the actors became in many ways the characters we read about.

I know Pottermore is coming out- and we’re all incredibly excited about that- but in a way this really is THE END of the saga. There won’t be another chapter to the story. There won’t be another film premiere.  There will be re-reads of the books and DVDs and Blu-Rays to watch the movies over again, but nothing like the anticipation of each new book and film.  And I will be surprised if there is another book that changes the people who read it- and subsequently, the world- in my lifetime.

I love the Harry Potter series because it celebrates loyalty and friendship.  It celebrates the freaks and geeks amongst us.  It shows us that ordinary people can be heroes and heroines when faced with extraordinary circumstances.  It shows us that creativity and imagination and dreams are wonderful things.  It teaches us that love is a powerful, powerful thing.  It makes us take a second look at the things around us, for things are not always what they seem, and there is so much more of the world for us to see if we just open ourselves to the experience.

I love the series because of the wonderful role models the female characters are to the girls who read the books: Hermione is brilliant and loyal and caring; Luna is quirky and odd and wise; Ginny is outspoken, independent and athletic. Sure, they all have insecurities, but overall they are strong and self-confident, but love fiercely.  And they paved the path for many of the heroines we see in young adult literature today.  If I ever have a daughter, I want her to be a Hermione, Luna, or Ginny over a Bella any day.

The series gave me a whole new set of friends who are just as enamored of the series as I am. People of all ages, who grew up with books or, like me,  were adults when they first read them.  These are other freaks and geeks that I am happy to call a part of my tribe, and people I would have never met had I not had this love for a boy wizard and his friends.

So, thank you, Jo Rowling for creating and sharing this world with us.  You’ve changed and enriched more lives that you can ever know. My life is better for knowing Harry.