In June Mark and I attended the Summer Reading Kick-Off at our local library. A friend came rushing over to us to say, “My wife and I just discovered this great new show we’ve been watching on Netflix… It’s called Lost.” My response was one of disbelief. “Are you kidding me? Lost has been off the air for two years! Where were you when the rest of the world was watching it?” He shrugged his shoulders, his enthusiasm undimmed. “Well… it’s new to me.”
It got me thinking about that night in September 2004, when I joined 18.6 million viewers in watching the series premiere of Lost. My memories were still so vivid. The close-up shot of Jack Shepherd’s eye opening in the jungle. The camera panning across a pristine beach to reveal the burning wreckage of the fuselage. The sounds of screaming castaways combined with the haunting beauty of the musical score. I remember meeting all the characters, wondering what their significance would be as it was hinted that everyone had something to hide. The two-part pilot hurtled along breathlessly to its conclusion, in which a small group of castaways discovered a distress call that had been playing in an endless loop for sixteen years. The camera zoomed in on each character’s horrified reaction as Charlie uttered the final words of dialogue, “Guys, where are we?”
My reaction: This. Is. Awesome.
I teased my friend for being so hopelessly behind the times, but I also felt just a little bit envious. He was experiencing all this for the first time. The mystery. The drama. The suspense. All the magic that earned Lost the #10 spot in Entertainment Weekly’s “25 Best Cult TV Shows from the Past 25 Years.” Of course, my friend would soon realize what it meant to be a fan of Lost. Barely explained hatches, smoke monsters, time portals, and mythical twins would have him riding the rollercoaster of adoration, frustration, and self-loathing that had me calling out “I wish I could quit you!” like Jack Twist in Brokeback Mountain. But for now, he was in the first flush of discovery. That hard-to-explain feeling you get when you read or watch a story and you realize: nothing could be better than this.
Can you remember some of your “first time” experiences? How did you feel the first time you read Catcher in the Rye or The Hunger Games? Do you remember the excitement of watching the New Directions sing “Don’t Stop Believin’” in the pilot episode of Glee? How about the first time you heard Ned Stark warn, “Winter is coming” in Game of Thrones? I’ve read over a thousand books in my lifetime and a vast number of them are long forgotten. (Some books you forget almost as soon as you finish the last page!) Looking back on my childhood, I will never forget the first time I read Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game. The sense of breathless excitement as the pieces of the puzzle began to fit together, and I realized how brilliantly the story was crafted. I’ll never forget reading The Witch of Blackbird Pond, and the fluttering feeling that invaded my stomach when Nat showed up at the courthouse to rescue Kit from being branded a witch. Sigh. Who could imagine a courthouse in 1680’s colonial New England could produce the greatest love story my 12-year-old mind had ever experienced? Thirty years later, I am still forever seeking that thrill of romance in every story I read or watch.
I’ve read both of these books dozens of times since then, but I’ll never be able to recreate the experience of the first time. When your heart is pounding and you’re devouring every word on the page, dying to know what happens next. It’s why I continue reading, watching TV, and going out to the movies. You never know when it will hit you. When the story ends and you are left with one overwhelming feeling: This. Is. Awesome.
Leave a comment and share with us some of your “first time” experiences!