On a trip to Rio last year just before Christmas, Tom and the kids and I started something that’s sure to become a tradition: travel gifting. We continued that tradition during our recent trip to California.

In Rio, we each got $R50, with instructions to spend the money on the other three in the family, buying a fun, commemorative gift from Rio. Turned out to be a fun activity, and we all purchased great little gifts for one another: onyx birds, purses made from bamboo, paintings, etc.

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Now, whenever I use my purse, I think of Scott and our trip to Rio. Whenever I see the painting that Aubrey gave me, I smile and think of her and our trip. It’s a great way to stay connected by memories.

On this recent trip to California, while we were in San Francisco for the day, we each received $20, and then counted to three  before putting out either one finger or two. Aubrey and I put out one, and Tom and Scott put out two. We had our gift partners.

Originally, once we arrived in SF, we were headed for the oyster bar in the old pier marketplace, but the electricity had gone out and most of the shops in the marketplace were closed. So, we ended up walking to an elegant bistro called the Tadich Grill, then rode a streetcar up and back on California Ave. while standing on the step and holding on for dear life. Now THAT’s the way to see San Francisco! Later, we walked down to the street market by the Embarcadero.

There we set off in pursuit of our travel gifts for our partners.

I immediately found Aubrey’s gift, a ring made from the tizo of a spoon with an H engraved on it. The artistan who’d made the ring was named Jimmy, and he’d played blues harp with some of the greats of the past, including with George Harrison and Eric Clapton while drinking wine in the Park in the 60s. He wears a leather pouch on his belt, within which he carries his two favorite harmonicas. The 60s were good to him, and he was a kick to chat with.


I found Tom buying Scott’s gift, and Scott buying Tom’s gift. We were soon joined by Aubrey, who had been lost in the crowd while buying my gift.

That night, in the hotel room, we had “June Christmas” and exchanged our gifts. Tom had bought Scott a t-shirt with an abstract picture of a saxophone player silkscreened on it; Scott had bought Tom some paintings; and Aubrey bought me a painting and a flattened wine bottle from Frog’s Leap winery, where we had spent a lovely afternoon the weekend before.

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Each of these was an inspired gift: Tom’s favorite California city is San Francisco, and now we have paintings to remind us of our trip, and our wonderful ten days together as family. Souvenirs = French for memories.