When I was preschool age, my dad traveled internationally as a quality control engineer. Every trip, he brought a different gift from a different land. His intentions and efforts were always met with gratitude and excitement; but sadly, only one (of dozens) sticks in memory, a collectible doll dripping in Brussels lace.

On a few recent trips, one to Dallas for pleasure and one to Austin for work, I struggled choosing a take-home gift for Lela, my 3-year old. Do I buy the crap from the airport stamped with the city name that has no significance to a tot? Do I go for the sucker overpriced cowgirl boots that she’ll outgrow in a month? I talked myself out of needing to bring anything home from Dallas for the sake of saving my money and my soul.

But Austin got soul. What do you do in Austin? See a band. My second night in Austin, I ventured out with a local to see local musician Erik Hokkanen and purchased a CD to share with my family.

Since my first morning home when we all gypsy jazzed and surfabillied while prepping for work and daycare, Lela has been asking for her “special music.”

Travel gifts don’t have to be geographically themed. One of my take-homes from Austin was the book Poem a Day, Vol. 3 by Bowen, Temple, Albery and Wienrich. In addition to our bedtime Berenstain Bears or Fancy Nancy, we are now reading a poem every night. We read the poem, read our regular kid lit, read again and “discuss” the day’s poem. Granted, most of the symbolism is lost on a 3-year old (and my husband). But I can at least say, “…this was about smiles,” and explain the meaning of one new word, like “crimson.”

Despite Lela explaining every poem since the first (which was about clouds) as being about clouds, I think I’m expanding her vocabulary and warming up her right-brain thinking as she drifts to dreamland for the next 365 days. Would overpriced cowgirl boots do that?


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