"Christmas Present" is around the corner, and over the years I've learned that the best things don't usually come in any kind of package — that stuff is, well, just stuff that sooner or later loses its luster.
And as hokey as it might sound, I've come to realize that the gift of time well spent is life's best bestowal; one that can offer respite and replenishment along with the adventure of getting lost in another world, even if it's just for a few hours or so.
This year, think past the bustle of the mall and consider the delight that comes with tearing open an envelope with tickets for an outing.
It's a perfect alternative for that hard-to-buy-for person, that someone you want to spend quality time with or the good friend or relative who doesn't get out enough these days. There's the upside of treating yourself, perhaps, as well as the kid who's primed for an introduction to the theater. And there's the joy of delayed gratification when the big day for that outing rolls around, weeks after the holiday decorations have been boxed up and stashed back in the attic.
There are plenty of options for every budget.
You could pony up a tidy sum ($50 to $70 apiece) for tickets to Billy Elliott the Musical in early January at Clearwater's Ruth Eckerd Hall. Or save the drive and some money with tickets to 9 to 5: The Musical ($49.50 with dinner, $38.45 without dinner, plus tax and tip) at Hudson's Show Palace Dinner Theater. Or you could purchase passes ($7-$10 or so) to the movie adaptation of Les Miserables that could be wrapped up with a concession-size box of Sno-Caps or Raisinets.
When it comes to music, there's the opportunity to "Jump, Jive an' Wail" with the Florida Orchestra in January in Tampa ($15-$45), or support local performers and venues by getting tickets to the Richey Community Orchestra (most shows $15), Frank Parsons Big Band ($11) or Phil Dirt and the Dozers ($20) who will perform some good old rock 'n' roll tunes Feb. 23 at the Center for the Arts at Wesley Chapel.
All can make for wonderful gifts.
Some of my fondest memories from "Christmas Past" were gifted by others.
In the lean years there were the "date night" movie passes that came with a voucher for babysitting services — a real sanity saver and much appreciated luxury we could ill afford at the time. Lightning hockey tickets for two were placed under our tree some years after that, sent by a relative who ended up giving my husband the opportunity to school our son on a sport he was passionate about, while fostering a dedication to what has become the new home team. As our kids grew and matured, tickets for the theatrical performances of Monty Python's Spamalot and The Lion King were tucked into everyone's stockings, along with the traditional net-filled bag of chocolate coins and the fragrant clementine rounding out the toe.
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We still talk about those "family time" theatrical experiences: how our sides were sore from laughing so hard at the English spoof; how my kids caught me silently weeping in my seat, wrapped up with the awesome enchantment of watching the Serengeti come to life on stage.
These are experiences I know we will always treasure, the gifts of time well spent that will long hold their luster.
Michele Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (813) 435-7307.