Many of my holiday gifts came from two high and hidden shelves where I stash trinkets from travels. Because of their far-flung origins, they are usually a surprise to the recipient; when I pull down the sacks in December, they are often a surprise to me.
This season I found chunky Greek bead necklaces in vivid blues and greens and ambers. I bought them on a last-day-at-sea sale in the Royal Princess boutique as we sailed into Acapulco after transiting the Panama Canal. They were in my closet next to my blue boxes of matches from Madame Tussaud's wax museum, a fitting souvenir for those who light candles or pipes or remember the chilling film, "House of Wax."
A favorite memento was a handout quill pen made by artisan Lewis Glaser in Charlottesville, Va. Glaser provides silvery white goose quill pens for today's Supreme Court; they are reminders of Colonial times, and of Thomas Jefferson who lived in Charlottesville and wrote to his granddaughter Cornelia in 1808: "I rejoice that you have learnt to write for another reason: for as that is done with a goose quill, you now know the value of a goose. . . ."
St. Thomas Totes
I found bright madras plaid tote bags from a cruise stop in St. Thomas. They are made on the island by a company called Coki, which is the name of a green tree in the Virgin Islands. If you've been there, you've heard a song which, the natives say, is "Co-kee, co-kee." I've gone to sleep to that sound on each balmy trip to the Caribbean.
I wrapped a pair of cotton gloves from Harrods in London, the match of a right-handed glove remaining from a pair I bought my mother six springs ago when we were there together. I took the spare to the Knightsbridge emporium during an October visit. With trademark grace and determination, the Harrods clerk dug past gloves of wool, fur, sequins and lace to find the navy cottons.
I gave miniature Kosta snowball candleholders, which I had collected at their crystal factory in the woods in Southern Sweden, and Scottish bargains in wool and cashmere from mill shops in St. Andrews and Pitlochry.
For an already radiant friend who had lost weight and turned healthy, I chose a sweat shirt from the Golden Door spa near Escondido. And for sailing pals there were copies of Walter Cronkite's book "North by Northeast," which he happened to be autographing when I wandered into a bookshop in Camden, Me.
There are still surprises on those high and hidden shelves in my back room. It makes me happy to reach in throughout the year to honor a birthday or graduation or anniversary.
Most of all, I like to celebrate Sundays, or full moons, or friendship, or love.