On a recent visit, my father brought me a gift of spice tea and lebkuchen from Germany. When my mother comes, from England, she often packs a giant jar of Marmite into her suitcase. When friends visit from the Middle East, they sometimes bring regional delicacies like bokharat (seven spice mix) or za'atar.
Not that you can't find these things here, in the great cultural melting pot that is America, with its international grocery stores and restaurants. Just that they are sometimes hard to find, and, quite honestly, not as good as the stuff from home.
This traffic in coveted goods goes both ways, of course. My dad likes to receive barbecue sauce and English-language books. My mother likes American cotton sheets and towels. Middle Eastern visitors often ask for sneakers, or electronics.
While we sometimes grumble when our baggage allowance is consumed with these items, these small exchanges are as much a part of travel as the joy of arrival and the pain of departure.
After my dad left, I brewed a pot of the spice tea and took one of the lebkuchen out of the package. I ate it very slowly, savoring each bite, and breathed in the aroma of the tea.
When these goodies are gone, it will be many months before I am able to enjoy them again. They are a finite pleasure, not to be taken for granted, and they remind me to savor my family and friends, too: to slow down when they are here, inhale, and treasure each moment, every shared cup of tea.