Family is the most important part of my life.

My mom was scheduled to fly through SFO tonight, with a 4-hour layover. Figuring that I would be off work at that time, the idea popped into my head to surprise her at the airport.

I first conducted brief due diligence — finding well-timed, one-way tickets to get past the TSA checkpoint; determining whether I could in fact intercept my mom; calculating the time needed to get through the airport. There was enough evidence of feasibility that convinced me to give it a shot. For a moment to be with a family member, I didn’t care much about price.

Immediately, I went to the wrong terminal. After chatting with a United Club staff member, I found that I could easily pass between terminals by leaving and re-entering, regardless of my boarding pass. Twenty minutes of transit later, I made it to the gate of my mom’s inbound flight.

The moment I spotted her walking off the plane is a moment I will not soon forget. This is the first time I’ve truly surprised her.

We chatted over coffee for a too-short hour and a half and then I walked her to her connection. I left the airport; my heart a lot warmer, my day a lot better.

When people say that you should spend money on experiences, not things, these are the experiences they’re alluding to. In twenty years, I won’t remember the cost of the Uber to the airport or the price of the coffee. I’ll remember the moments — the excitement within me when I sat down at the gate, the feeling of seeing the look on my mom’s face, the tear I saw forming in my mom’s eye as I watched her walk towards the security line.

In materialistic times like the holiday gifting season, it’s important to deemphasize the material goods themselves and overindex on the meaning behind the act of giving. Gifting is a reflection of your memories and feelings toward a person. Gifts are physical manifestations of a relationship.

Today I tried my damndest to give my mom the gift of importance. I wanted to show her that she matters to me. I wanted to show her a small token of my appreciation for supporting me, for nurturing me, and for making me who I am today. I tried to give my mom the best gift I could. And I think I just barely pulled it off.

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