My Clare Kramer Story
My story with Clare is without a doubt going to be the longest encounter story out of them all, and it's not just because I've had the pleasure of meeting this woman time and time again, but because no matter who I get to meet in my life and how often, no other story will ever be as special, as precious as the one I'm about to tell. There is a reason I have told Clare (on more than one occasion) that apart from family she's my favorite person in the world. As kiss-ass and over-the-top as it may sound - it's the truth.
Our story starts at the end of April in 2004, at my first ever convention. For some reason her first autograph session was actually scheduled to take place the evening before the first official day of the convention. Already being in town, I decided to attend that session rather than waiting until later. I had brought a gift for her, a pencil sketch of her character in Buffy, that I intended to give her, only to find out that since it was a big convention you couldn't give gifts in person as it could potentially hold up the queue and cause some other fan to miss out on the chance to get an autograph. However they had set up a gift table, and that's where I handed in my drawing. Our first encounter was short, but nice as she signed my Buffy diary, and asked me if I was excited for the weekend. Her excitement was contagious.
I returned to the hallway outside the autograph room towards the end of the session, not because I intended to loiter, in fact I was waiting for one of the people stewarding in the session to finish up, as she was one of my roommates for the weekend. While I was waiting I spotted the organizer coming out of the room, carrying - amongst other things - my drawing. I couldn't help myself, so I asked him if Clare liked it. Before I knew it, he asked me to wait there so he could go get her (as apparently she wanted to talk to me). The encounter made my day as she hugged me and told me how much she loved my drawing (in retrospect I can't say my skills were that amazing, but maybe it was more about the gesture than the actual product).
I really thought that was going to be it, but it was only the mere beginning. It seemed to me that every time I encountered her that weekend, there was some significant moment. She waved to me from the stage when I was up at the microphone asking my questions, she commented on my questions when I came to have my picture taken with her. When I collected my photo later, I even noticed that in addition to signing it, she had left me a personal message.
All of these things were small gestures, but together they had a great impact. I should maybe explain that I've never been a popular person, more like the opposite. Those who weren't set on destroying my life didn't seem to pay much attention to me at all. And though my bullying problems were years in the past, the scars weren't. That feeling of insignificance was still very strong in me. I felt invisible, like part of the scenery, like I didn't really matter. Clare's small gestures told me the exact opposite. Out of the 1700 attendees at this convention, she was paying attention to me. As silly as it might seem, it was like she was telling me; 'I see you, you matter'.
I got to talk to her one last time that weekend right after the closing ceremony. She was hanging around while a couple of the other guests walked around hugging random fans. I thanked her for what she wrote on my photo, even shared that it happened to be my birthday that day (which it was, my 20th birthday). We had a brief chat before she had to leave, and I got a goodbye hug. I think that hug, that sense of closure is why I wasn't struck with convention blues the next day. Instead of being sad that the weekend was over, I was cherishing everything that had transpired.
It was only a little over a year later when I got to meet Clare again. This time I had also made a sketch for her, but since she wasn't doing an autograph session that weekend, and I wasn't sure I was going to get another chance to give it to her personally, I had arranged with one of the staff members to have it sent to her hotel room. However, I already got a chance to talk to her just a few hours after the opening ceremony. I was wandering the main area near the bar, looking for my friends when suddenly I realized I was standing right next to her.
The minute Clare saw me, she hugged me and asked me how I was doing, as if we were old friends. I quickly asked her if she had received my drawing, to which she explained she hadn't yet, but she knew it was waiting for her at her hotel room. If I had any doubt she remembered me from the year before, they were quickly dismissed as she proceeded to praise my drawings to the woman whom she had been talking to before I had come up to her. I also took the opportunity to thank her for what she had done for me at the last convention, explained a little bit about how I tended to feel like the only way anyone could ever notice me was if I made myself be noticed. We shared a very profound moment, as it seemed from the way she was speaking that she could relate to what I was saying, and it was overall just a really nice moment to have with her.
I also asked her about this request I had regarding her photoshoot that weekend. I explained that I wanted to give a friend of mine a birthday present, and it was originally gonna be an autograph from her, as she was his (and my) favorite villain, but since she wasn't doing an autograph session that weekend, I had decided to make it a photo instead - and as people had adviced me to get permission from her on beforehand for special poses, I seized the opportunity to ask her if she would be willing to pose with me holding a birthday banner for my friend. She enthusiastically told me she loved doing those kinds of things, and even tacked an 'especially for you' at the end of it.
That whole weekend whenever I ran into her (which was a lot, as this was a small venue and guests had to constantly cross the main area to get to whereever they were going), no matter where she was headed, who she was with, whether she was in a hurry or not, she stopped and gave me a hug. I'm not exaggerating. Whether it was her alone, or she was with her guest liason or with other guests, she always took the time to give me a hug. If I had been impressed with her gestures the year before, this was blowing my mind. And it just kept on happening. Even in the photo session, we did the pose with the banner, and then she pulled me in for a hug, and we ended up doing that for the photo itself.
Also this time I got to have that closure moment right after the closing ceremony. I went up to her, thanked her for everything and said my goodbyes. I did see her around during the party, even exchanged a quick word, but having said goodbye already, I had gotten the closure I needed.
About a year later, I was headed for my third convention. This time was a bit different for me. This time Clare was not on the guest list, also due to a major school project I had to travel later than I would have liked, and I would be missing out on the start of the convention. To make matters worse, when I got to the airport I was told that my first flight was majorly delayed, so much that I would be missing my second flight. I nearly panicked, but thankfully the airline understood my situation and managed to reschedule me for an earlier flight (thankfully I had also decided to arrive at the airport early that day).
However right after I had boarded my second flight we were told that due to a thunderstorm in the Heathrow area, we would have to wait for it to calm down before we could take off. And we were forced to wait inside the plane for an unspecified amount of time, I started panicking about what would happen if they decided we couldn't take off at all. I was afraid that I might never make the convention. Thankfully after about an hour and a half or longer we finally got the all clear to take off and we were on our way. However all the stress and negative thinking had culminated in a huge dark cloud hanging over my head, I was in a really foul mood when I finally stepped out of the plane at Heathrow.
I turned on my phone only to see that I had received a text from friends who were already at the convention, telling me there had been several surprise guests, listing the names. The minute I saw Clare's name on the list, the dark cloud evaporated and I felt light on my toes. If she was there, then everything would be alright. I got another assurance once I stepped off the bus at the hotel when another friend came running, announcing to me that Clare was there (one of the things we had in common was our immense love for this woman) and when I entered the venue, the first person I saw - posing for a photo with my friend - was Clare.
And just like the year before, the minute she spotted me, she pulled me in for a hug and asked me how I was doing. I was an emotional wreck by this point and it all came pouring out, the stress and agony of the delays and I kept babbling on about how happy I was that she was there. However, I didn't feel I had really underlined exactly how much it meant to me that she was there, so I repeated my story the next day up at the microphone, only this time I was much more coherent and I truly managed to explain how big of an impact Clare had on me.
I was very happy to have gotten it all out, so when I went to her photoshoot later that day, I just used the time I stood in line to study how incredibly sweet she was with every single fan who came up to her. She hugged many, shook hands with some, always with a wide smile on her face - and it was always genuine. Then when it was my turn, she managed to surprise me by literally throwing her arms around me, pulling me into this tight, tight bearhug, pulling back just enough so our eyes could meet before exclaiming happily that I had made her day, and hugging me again. And when I picked up my photo later that day, she had once again left me a personal message, only this time it consisted of two simple words; "Love you!"
I however had a moment of disappointment when she vanished very quickly after the closing ceremony. Suddenly I was left without that closure moment of saying goodbye, without getting to wrap the weekend up in a final moment - and it devastated me. I kept hoping she would show up again, but as time dragged on, it seemed as maybe she had left (which is normal for most guests at most conventions, very few stay for the last party, as many of them have flights to prepare for). I had just accepted that this time I would have to do without closure, and was headed towards the main hall to rejoin the party for the final fifteen minutes when suddenly Clare emerged from the green room. Again I was overtaken by emotions and kept babbling about how I had been afraid I wouldn't get a chance to say goodbye before she left. This saint of a woman handled my outburst incredibly well, giving me a hug and assuring me that she was still there. And as much as I should probably be embarassed by my silly emo
tional outburst, the way Clare responded to it just made it feel alright.
A whooping four and a half years passed before we saw one another again. By that time I had grown into a rather confident person, someone who no longer felt insignificant or unimportant. I was finally at the end of a very long process, finally able to love myself for exactly who I was, and everything about myself. And although the process have been influenced by many, many different factors, I do still to this day consider my encounters with Clare to be the catalyst for that change. She saw me at a time when I felt invisible, and she made sure I knew it. No matter if it was consciously or subconsciously, her words, gestures and general treatment of me made me feel like I mattered.
Being very grateful to her for everything she had done for me, I wanted to give her something that at least symbolically would tell her how much she meant to me. I had remembered this picture she had posted on twitter of her two young children, telling all her followers that those two were what she was most grateful for in the whole world. It seemed like the most perfect thing, so I used that photo as inspiration for another pencil sketch. I also wrote a letter, explaining what she meant to me, and that I wanted to show her how grateful I was by giving her a drawing of the things she was most grateful in the world.
The funny thing was that Clare actually ended up being the last person to come to my table at the meet'n greet. So by the time she joined us, not only had the entire table seen the drawing and heard the story, but even some of the guests had seen it (and those among them who personally knew her kids had told me the resemblance was great). I had also taken to drawing various guests while waiting, and when Clare finally joined the table, I was actually in the middle of a new one (at that point it was only a pair of eyes that I was shading). The first thing she did when she joined the table was to ask who I was drawing, which actually happened to be her (no, I did not plan that).
This quickly lead to one of the other people at my table telling Clare about my gift for her. I hadn't really planned on how I was going to present it to her, but with the other attendee bringing it up, I didn't really need an opening. I just quickly explained that in order to show my appreciation I wanted to give her a drawing of what she herself appreciates the most. I also added that there was a letter, but that she could read that at some other time (I didn't really want to steal everyone else's time with her). The minute she opened the folder and saw the drawing she burst into tears and before I knew it she was holding me tightly. It was shortly put a really sweet moment that can't really be described in words.
Now, something else happened this weekend, a story that isn't really mine to share, so you're going to have to forgive my vagueness. A friend of mine who wasn't attending the convention, but at the time lived not too far from the venue had a stream of really bad luck and was completely devastated. In order to be there for my friend and give them a distraction from everything that was going on, I convinced them to come and bought them a ticket for the event so that they could be with me at all times. At some point that evening my friend and I ended up talking to Clare and I got a whole new reason to love her. She took the time to listen as my friend told her what had happened, and then she did whatever she could to cheer up my friend.
The next day, I was hit with a big stroke of luck. Sometimes during a photosession it's necessary to have a disk change, when that happens, whoever is next in line gets the chance to talk to the guest currently in front of the camera while they wait for the photographer to change disks. And out of all the times and all the people and all the events this could happen to me, it was that event, that day and Clare's photosession. She immediately asked about my friend, and it really touched me how much she cared. In a way it felt like the torch had been passed on, like it was my friend's turn to be noticed, to be remembered, and I really liked that someone I care so much about could get that experience, as well.
Clare managed to move me with her closing speech, because out of all the things she could have brought up from that weekend, which for her had been a major reunion, having been away from the events for so long, two of them were about me. I was gobsmacked to say the least. How is it this woman never ceases to amaze me? I also got to resume my tradition of saying goodbye after the closing ceremony, Clare misunderstood and thought I was actually leaving, but I quickly explained that it was about a closure - that I 'always say goodbye' to her.
Only another year passed before I saw her again, this time the first thing she said when she reached my table at the meet'n greet was that she had looked at my picture the other day. I misunderstood at first, as she had recently started a trend of posting pictures with fans on her facebook page, and one of mine had become rather popular (due to our Glory brain-sucking pose), but then I realized she was talking about the drawing I gave her the year before. The idea that my drawing not only made it to her house, but also has its own place there, it's just precious. Like there's a small reminder of me in her life, just like I have all those reminders of her in mine (like our many photos together and the sweet messages she's put on some of them).
I almost missed out on getting that usual closure once again, as she and all the other guests vanished from the main hall pretty much immediately after the closing ceremony. The difference was that it wasn't as devastating for me as it had been the last time it happened. I decided to head back to my room with my things, then just as I was crossing the main lobby of the hotel, there she was, she spotted me immediately, and though she explained she was kind of in a hurry, she still pulled me in for a hug, still took the time to ask me which event I'd do next. I didn't have a specific answer for her, as I hadn't yet decided. Before I knew it we were both promising each other 'next year'. And I realized that it was no longer about a 'goodbye', no longer about 'closure'.
It might not actually be next year, but at some point we will see each other again. The story isn't over.
Most fans who have had the pleasure of meeting Clare describes that it's like 'meeting an old friend' and I can testify to that. Clare is very sweet, very caring and not to mention very genuine in the way that she treats us. She's had an incredible impact on my life, and best of all, I feel that at least in a small way I've managed to reciprocate some of it. I am without a doubt a fan of Clare, not the actress, though I do appreciate her work, but I'm a much bigger fan of the person that she is. If more people were like her, the world would be one amazing place to live.