of armadillos and gift-giving

My sweetheart has proposed that instead of stuff-giving for $WINTERHOLIDAY, people should give experiences. His (rather sound) theory is that when you think of things that have mattered, experiences are what come to mind rather than trinkets.

I admit to having a great childish love of presents. But perhaps he has a point.

Several years ago, someone gifted me with a lovely suede purse. The front was decorated with a Celtic knotwork deer, beautifully crafted, and I would never have put that much money out for something for myself…but oh heavens, was it worth every penny.

It became my carrying vessel of choice, regardless of the occasion. And when I was hired to assist with a promotional event at a local mall, I grabbed my vaguely expensive bag on the way out the door.

Which sounds appropriate, until you consider that the event consisted of handling varied wild animals.

To be specific, our zoo had been tapped by Disney to provide critters for a TV personality to use during local appearances geared towards promoting his new television show. This was a great opportunity (as well as a novel one) and I was, frankly, thrilled to be a part of it.

The TV personality in question would do half hour shows, followed by a break of an hour or so. We would retreat to an unused store front, where our critters were being kept in varied carriers, until our next scheduled collective appearance. To reduce stress on the exotic animals we’d brought, we made sure no one was used twice in a row, and took advantage of those breaks to do spot cleaning as needed, or to give selective beasties a chance to get out of their carriers and exercise a little.

During one of those breaks, I succumbed to the siren call of the mall and asked my coworker if she minded me ducking out for a few minutes. “No problem,” she replied, as she proceeded to open the door of a carrier containing an armadillo. “I’m just gonna let Armie stretch her legs.”

“Sounds good!” I grabbed my wallet and stashed my much-loved purse in a corner of the room.

Perhaps you have not been up close and personal with an armadillo. She is a difficult creature with whom to have a warm fuzzy relationship. She’s a prehistoric creature – apparently Evolution took one look at the armadillo and said, “Yeeah..I got nuffin.” She has very little hair on her body, relying instead on her hard armor-like skin for protection. She doesn’t see very well. She has less than impressive teeth. She has very sharp hard claws with which she tears apart whatever is keeping her from her chosen meal of bug, and she relies on her sense of smell more than sight to help her find her way. She has an odd vaguely musky sort of scent.

She’s also lactose intolerant. Which, um, the zookeeping community didn’t realize at the time this story took place. Which means milk products were a part of her daily diet.

(Yes, this is relevant.)

So Armie – a schnuffly, jumpy, powerful older lady – was given the run of the room for *just* long enough to decide that she needed to..well..do something secret.

In my suede purse.

I returned after a 15 minute absence to find a panic-stricken co-worker hiding something behind her back.
“Um. Hi. So…what did I miss?”

“I didn’t know I didn’t see what she was doing oh my God I’m so sorry I couldn’t stop her maybe we can clean it I’m so so sorry…”

And she handed me my purse, artfully filled with something that is never, NEVER going to come out of suede.

So, Gentle Readers, yes, my very wise boyfriend has a point. When it comes to the things that have long-term value in our lives, it may indeed be that the experiences we give each other are more long-lasting, are worth more than the gifts we purchase and exchange (and may lose) with our loved ones.



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