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The gift of experience

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the best gifts

TIME OF MY LIFE Sometimes, the best gifts are the kind that take us to new places and encourage us to try new things. (Illustration:

In this season of gift-giving, we thought we’d consider the gift of experience. Unlike things, experiences actually become a part of who we are. They forge bonds. They create character. And they create memories, stories we tell again and again. Here are a just a few of those stories, as told by our neighbors.

Carrie Vallone, River Oaks area

“We gave our son Luca a surprise trip to Disney and Harry Potter World for his ninth birthday,” Carrie says. “He was reading Harry Potter at the time and totally obsessed with it, so we thought it would be great in lieu of a party or gift. The first part of the surprise was a scavenger hunt that morning that led him via clues to his packed bags. Then, we headed to the airport, and the second part of the surprise was seeing his friend and his family who were joining us for the trip. Fantastic time, memories made and one happy little boy!”

Anita Gaylor, Memorial

“I have an exercise ‘habit,’” Anita says. “One of my favorite things to do is spin. I spin at The Houstonian and have done so since the beginning, like 20 years. Several years ago, my instructor friend Joie Didow, at my request, did a Houstonian spin class on my birthday and played 100-percent Michael Jackson music and videos. [Michael Jackson is] another ‘habit’ I have. I filled the class with friends, and it was one of the best gifts I have ever received!”

Tina Pyne, River Oaks

“I wanted a horse as long as I could remember, ever since I was born, it seems,” Tina says. “When I was 12 years old, there was a box under the tree for me. I opened the box, and it was full of horse poop. My brothers and sisters laughed and thought that was horrible. But I was overjoyed, because I knew that my mom, with her great sense of humor, had bought me the horse.”

Susie Davidson, West University

“My sister has given me two amazing birthday experiences,” Susie says. “First, she gave me tickets to the French Open about four years ago. My goal is to see all four Majors! And for my 50th, she flew me to New York and took me to see Hamilton with the original cast. She is the most generous and thoughtful sister. I am taking my mom to see Barbra Streisand when she is in town on Nov. 27 – a perfect gift for my mom, who celebrates her birthday on Nov. 30.”

Scott Evans, West University

“My husband gave me the most amazing trip for our 20th anniversary ... a surprise trip to Paris,” Scott says. “He told me to pack for cold. I didn’t find out where we were headed until the pilot announced it! I appreciated all of the time and energy he put into planning every detail, and then I was able to spend uninterrupted time with him for nine days. He even brought an empty suitcase so I could antique at the Parisian flea markets. It was lovingly planned, and I’ll never forget it!”

Wendy Gold, Bellaire

“My brother bought my husband and me a pair of tickets to the Diamond Club to watch the Astros,” Wendy says. “My husband is a huge baseball fan, and I don’t really care about sports. However, the Diamond Club was such a great experience that even I am looking forward to going back. You can watch the game on huge screens or go outside, where we had amazing seats behind home plate. In fact, Nolan Ryan was sitting two rows in front of us, and we got his autograph. To top it off, the Astros won.”

Suzi and Etan Weinstock, Bellaire

“Spending time together … keeps our family strong,” Suzi says. “Most of the gifts that our children receive are family experiences. Our history includes experiences like iFly, a submarine ride in Honduras, surf camp on the coast of Barcelona, lunches at the sculpture gardens in Montrose, trips to spend time with family living in other states or volunteering together at Evelyn’s Park. We have always lived our lives this way. Our resolve was strengthened after our home was destroyed by the Memorial Day flood in 2015. We lost so much, but [we] recognized rather quickly that the stuff we lost was no match for the experiences we’ve had together, and that a flood couldn’t take away our fun memories or love for each other or future family memories on the horizon.”

Wishing you wonderful experiences and lasting memories this holiday season.

Editor’s note: Have you ever gotten or given a special gift of experience? We’d love to share your memory. Email [email protected] or comment below.

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