You can’t give an experience.
Items, on the other hand, make easy gifts. You find just the right book perhaps, or some knick-knack for around the house. You pull it off the shelf, pay for it, wrap it up, jam it under the tree, and you are done.
Experiences are another story.
We can’t buy them and they don’t come pre-packaged.
We can set up the circumstances, perhaps, but in the end, an experience has a life all of its own, and it will ‘be’ whatever it chooses to be.
You can not give an experience. They have no tolerance for being bought or sold.
An experience, good or bad, may only be shared.
On Yule morning last, as we exchanged gifts, I revealed to my mother that on the second weekend of February, she would be meeting one of her all-time favorite actors, Richard Dreyfuss – my gift to her.
The plan had been hatched only a few weeks before, when I learned that Mr. Dreyfuss would be attending a local sci-fi convention. From that moment on, the wheels began to turn, tickets were purchased, preparations made, plans…, ummmm, planned.
On the surface it seemed pretty simple: we go, we get in line, she gets an autograph.
Easy – As – Pie.
Except, of course, that there is so much that can go wrong. Circumstances beyond our control may dash even the most carefully constructed scheme. It’s maddening.
Items are so much easier – buy it, wrap it, and done.
Experiences I fret over, and needlessly.
We can’t control them.
We can only share them.
And share them, we did!
It was an incredible weekend!
There were crowds to wade through with all the attendant bumps and bruises and a fair helping of “hurry up and wait.” There were scheduling snafus, parking adventures, and the gastronomic ‘roll-of-the-dice’ that is convention food. There were all those things of which I have come to expect from the ‘Con’ experience, but which were completely new to my mother, and which I tried to ease her through.
And I should have known better.
My mother got to meet Richard Dreyfuss! She got to shake his hand, get his autograph, and they even shared a memory of the first thing she ever saw him in (an old episode of ‘That Girl’ with Marlo Thomas – filmed in 1967, the year of my birth). It’s been a long while since I’ve seen a smile quite that big on my mother’s face.
And I think she was buzzing too much to really even notice the crowds.
Later, we sat and listened to Mr. Dreyfuss speak passionately about his efforts to bring civics education back into the classroom, while still answering questions about shark movies. He was funny, and down-to-earth, and inspiring in a genuine way that is rare among celebrities these days.
So she has the autograph, and a photo of herself with one of her cinema heroes.
But those are just objects. They are ‘proof of contact’, yes, but of no real significance.
Far more important is the encounter, the experience, the story.
These are things not given, but shared.
I’m glad we could be there, Mom – to share in your ‘close encounter’.
This one was for you!