So, what did you bring me?..

-Gabren King, more great stuff can be seen at his personal web site.

City skyline snowglobe, check. Picture of me with a Southwest Airlines Stewardess in airport bar, check. Box of Legos that could be found in any toy store in America, check.

With the knowledge that I have each of my bases covered I am now able to sit back (with my tray table up) and enjoy my copy of Practical Demon Keeping (as long as I have my seatbelt fastened and seat back in the upright position - what is the deal with that anyway?)

You see, regardless of my destination, the reason for my trip or even how long I might be gone is of no consequence to my boys. In their world the fact that my trip involves transportation by plane requires I return home with some type of gift. If I even think about walking through the front door of my house without having some type of gift in my luggage my kids pour on the type of guilt usually reserved for 'only daughters' in child bearing years.

Have you ever tried explaning the fact that while your trip was one week long you had no rental car, you spent the week in a conference room the temperature of the Arctic Circle, you listened to canned management jargon while wondering how in the world your boss got his job, ate the same Continental breakfast each morning and then had to entertain your fellow co-workers at smoke filled, hotel lobby happy hours for the entire week as the second hands on your watch sounded off in your head like the chimes on Big Ben. All the while wishing your hotel would burn to the ground just so you could catch a cab back to the airport and be happy in the knowledge that while you would certainly have to deal with hotel insurance adjusters for the next month you were now much better off.

I tried to explain that exact scario to my kids the one time I came home empty handed....their response, "Dad, are you sure there is nothing in your pockets for us?"
My response, "As soon as my boss refunds my sanity I would be more than happy to buy each of you whatever you want?"
You should have seen those blank expressions.....dumb struck, quiet children are priceless.

So, this year I returned home with gifts in tow. What I have found over my years of travels is the gift really does not matter. Nor does it matter if the gift really came from the destination (I discovered this one year when I stopped in the local Target on the way home from the airport and picked up gifts - my kids had no idea Targets can be found in Wisconsin).

As I walked through the door and hugged each of my boys they each took a step back, looked at me and patiently waiting while I dug into my laptop bag.

My oldest is the easiest, snowglobe of every city I visit. Don't know why he loves those, but there isn't an airport in the world that does not sell snowglobes.

My youngest is also easy. Legos. These can be found at any Target along the route to or from the airport. I usually hit one on the way and then leave the Legos in the car.

My middle son is the most difficult to shop for. He does not play with toys. He could care less about snowglobes. Quite frankly, unless I come home with a new skateboard every trip he usually gets the short end. So, when I handed him the picture of me smiling wide, my arm around a Southwest Airlines stewardess, drinks in hand a the airport bar he just looked at me with a somewhat puzzled expression.
"Uummm, thanks Dad, I guess."
"Son, whenever you think your dad is not cool or getting too old to 'hang', just take a look at this picture and remember that your old man still has a little game."
My son then took the picture stuffed it into his pocket looked at me and said, "Whatever Dad. Could I just have like ten bucks or something?"

Someday maybe he will appreciate the amount of effort that went into his gift. Until then at least I have the memories.