I don’t know what to say? Gift recipients struggle to express how they felt after getting some unusual gifts. Content has been edited for clarity.
From The Heart
“I’ll start out by saying although the gifts I’m about to mention were strange, they were all given with good intent and made with love.
But still strange, nonetheless.
So for some background, I had this aunt who married into the family about eight years ago. She was a very nice woman and adored everyone. She always wanted a large family, and my uncle is one of nine siblings. She was also extremely spiritual and extremely into arts and crafts.
One of the first unusual gifts I received from her was for my high school graduation. I was given a very large collage on a poster board that had been spray-painted and peppered with assorted family photos and inspirational magazine cutouts.
I received another of these collages a few years later. Again, spray paint, family photos, and magazine cutouts. Not sure what the occasion was.
Then, for Christmas one year, I was given a snowman made out of several glass jars that had been glued together. The jars had decorative rocks in them and the snowman had been painted and covered in glitter. Side note, gluing glass together doesn’t work too well. Needless to say, Mr. Snowman fell apart in my trunk when I tried to transport him home and I was cleaning glitter and rocks out of my car for a while.
The most recent gift was given to my husband and me, for our wedding. The first part of the gift was a shelf with small drawers and a mirror. The shelf had been painted. And doused in glitter. Sigh. Imagine how thrilled I was when, the day after our wedding, we were sitting in our living room opening our gifts and I pulled it out of the bag, releasing a shower of glitter all over the couch and carpet. I didn’t bother taking the rest of the gift out, which was a heavy-duty cardboard Eiffel Tower that had also been glitter-fied.
You may be wondering why we received an Eiffel tower. I honestly didn’t know. My aunt thought I loved Paris. She had given me an Eiffel tower Christmas ornament one year as well. I had never been to France, nor did I have any desire to go.
She really was a wonderful person, though.”
Not What Was Intended
“My gift was both strange and sad.
“My husband and I had decided to move out of the city and state where my parents were living. This angered my father because he assumed that I would stay home and care for my mentally disabled mother. My mother needed round-the-clock, secure-facility care, and he would not listen to me that I was unable and unqualified to provide it. The only way to force his hand and get my mother the care she needed was to move and to move far enough away where we would no longer be an option for him to drop his responsibilities.
We were set to move on the first of the year. Christmas came and the family was together to celebrate. My mom presented me with a gift-wrapped present, looking a little upset. She apologized, saying how my father wouldn’t take her out shopping for gifts.
Inside was a case of microwave popcorn.
Mom loved us, even though she was quickly leaving us mentally, but she still knew enough that my dad was being a spoiled brat throwing a temper tantrum and trying to hurt us. She gave us the popcorn because it was the only thing she could give us.
I couldn’t open that case of popcorn for more than a year.”
“Last year, for my birthday, I had a discussion with my parents in which I told them I wanted a phone.
They thought that it was a reasonable enough request, and agreed. I told them the model I wanted, thanked them, and waited. On my actual birthday, they handed me a wrapped box.
Utterly sure that it was the iPhone 6s Plus I had told them about, I excitedly tore into the wrapping paper and the cardboard box beneath it. When I finally got everything open, what I found was an old, clunky cell phone that looked like it was from the 1990s. Yeah. It was old.
After a moment of confusion, I looked at my parents and just said, ‘Huh?’
For a minute or two, they just kept saying, ‘It’s your new phone! Don’t you like it?’
Then they finally explained.
It turned out the phone they had given me was my dad’s old cell phone. In fact, it was his first cell phone. He had recently found it in the garage and decided to play a little joke on me. After that, they gave me my actual phone, the one I had asked them for.
I was really glad they were kidding. I would not have liked to have an ancient cell phone.
Weren’t there rumors those things gave people cancer?”
Just For You
“It had a been year and a half of togetherness. I always complained to him about how he never ever got me anything. So one time when he went to visit his parents, I gave him the ultimatum. Either he got me something or he could us off. He promised he would. I gave him all the options a girl can think of, ranging from very cheap to expensive girlie stuff. I knew this time he was going to surprise me.
The D- Day arrived. He came back and called me, ‘Babe, I did get you something. I want to see your reaction when you see it’
I could feel the excitement in his voice. I was overwhelmed and my thought process wandered to the gift. In the evening when we met, I thought maybe he had gotten me the nail paint I asked for or it could be a dress, a neckpiece, an anklet. It was a long list.
I closed my eyes for the surprise. And when I opened them and what did I see? A packet of nankeen. Seriously? Like seriously, the man got me nankeen. I had that ridiculous look on my face. I saw in his eyes he was waiting for my reaction.
I grabbed all my what the heck thoughts and smiled, ‘Wow, you got me this. It’s unique, Why would you get me this?’
‘It’s special in my city, I got the one which you can eat, less spicy,’ he said sheepishly.
I hugged him for his efforts, thanked him, and giggled the whole time.
He was not an expressive type. He couldn’t think of fancy fairytale gifts. He did keep his word. It was the gesture that mattered. I never liked the taste of it though. I had quietly snuck them into his collection of nankeens. He was a huge fan of them. That was so far the strangest and most unexpected gift I received.
PS- I still have the empty packet as a memory.”
This May Come In Handy
“I received nail heads I seem to remember.
These were a present from my Grandmother for my fifth (yes that was right) birthday.
They were loosely bundled up in a newspaper, without sellotape or string. As most newspapers were broadsheets at the time, it at least managed to capture them all successfully.
They were handed over to me by my rather nonchalant father who took no interest in events and was seemingly oblivious to how inappropriate a present they were.
I was not quite sure whether or not my grandmother was hoping I had a career as a carpenter ahead of me or not, but one would have thought the absence of a hammer, saw, or indeed any wood, might have severely limited my future as a latter-day Thomas Chippendale.
What has always puzzled me most about this sorry episode was none of my family members regarded the present or its packaging (or lack of) as in any way odd. Perhaps a portent of things to come and a clear indication of a family beset with ‘issues’ of a mental variety.”
“An electric pencil sharpener. For my eleventh birthday. From my mother.
My mum has always been terrible at choosing presents. We had settled into a routine where she would ask us all what we wanted, we’d tell her, and she’d get it if it was in the price range. So not a lot of surprises at Christmas or birthdays in the Crowhurst household. As January 1978 approached, she asked, and I said I’d like some hockey sticks.
But then as they say drew near I said to myself, ‘Hey, wait a minute. She is obliged as a parent to buy me hockey sticks. Why am I wasting a present on this?’
So I told her I changed my mind. With less than a week to go, and little imagination to work with, she was basically out of options. I guess she found herself in an office supply store, or something because it wasn’t even a Snoopy-as-Red-Baron pencil sharpener. It was one you’d find on an accountant’s desk.
When I opened it, well, I didn’t have much of a poker face at the time. It was like I opened up a box with a big dog turd in it.
But you know what? Best present ever. Pencils were such a pain in the behind in the 1970s and 80s, and it was pretty amazing. I used it for pencil crayons, too, and I did a lot of drawing back then. Having a fine point was important.
I still have it, and it still works great.”
“Whenever I had to visit my immediate family while attending college, I often found myself experiencing a mixture of dread and boredom. It took quite some time to get there without a car. I had to take an hour-long bus to the train station, where I would have another hour-long Metrolink ride.
On one of these trips, I trudged onto the bus with my large roll-away luggage. I sat across from a homeless gentleman. He kept to himself but stared and smiled at me. I sensed he wanted to say something or do something, but I was not sure what.
He slowly rocked back and forth, still staring, but with a pensive look. A few minutes passed, and he reached into his worn, charcoal-colored jacket to the inside pocket. I stiffened my arms and pulled my luggage a bit closer.
Out came a spherical ball of lint the size of a navel orange. He grinned and placed it gently on the top of my luggage, where the bottom gave way to sit without moving.
I honestly did not know what to do, so I said, ‘Thank you?’ and gave an awkward smile.
I had so many questions. Where did he get this much lint? Is this lint clean? Did he always carry around lint balls to give away to women? What did he mean by giving this ball to me?
I just left the ball lying on top of my luggage. Three minutes later, he shot another huge grin at me and got up. Once I saw he was walking out of view, I dropped off my gift into the small trash bin near the front of the bus.”
“My group had always celebrated birthdays by insulting the birthday boy. We would beat him with brooms, we would secretly put a pickle in the cake and he would be forced to eat it. He would be given garlands of shoes or a simple tie around his neck and a lot more. He would literally run for his life on his birthday.
So naturally, our gift had to be unique. Among the most unique ones I remember was when it was my friend’s 20th birthday. He took us all to a dinner where his other friends and family also joined us. We gifted him a big box properly packed and gift wrapped and forced him to open it in front of everyone.
He opened the first box and found a smaller one in it, again gift wrapped properly. He opened the second one and found a third one waiting inside. He opened almost six boxes to find a small jewelry box-sized box. It couldn’t have got any smaller.
Finally, when he opened that, almost frustrated by then, he saw the most unique gift one can ever get for a 20-year-old. It was a pacifier. Everyone around was laughing as hard as he could. It has been around three years now but he still has it kept as a memory in his showcase. It reminded him to be a bit crazy and worry less. Also, that we are there for him.”
Close Your Eyes
“I was in primary school. My brother went to the same school, so, inevitably I had a few more additional ‘brothers’ who were his friends.
Our school was located about five to seven km from our home, which was why our parents sent us to and from school with a pedicab. The fastest route to and from our school was through this Chinese cemetery. It was not scary at all, in fact, it was kind of nice I always thought. It had a large street with pine trees and other types of flowery trees all around, with various tombstones with angels or spiritual statues spread throughout. It was lovely. However, the cemetery had a hilly part, which meant the travel to school was fun because we went downhill. While the ride from school was dreadful because we had to go up the hill and sometimes the pedicab had to be pushed and we had to get off of it and walked.
Anyway, one day one of my brother’s friends and his little sister who was older than me went home with us. They were these rich kids who usually were taken and picked up in their parents’ car. But, that day they went home with us. They used to live close to where we live. To this day I still don’t know why they went home with us. On our way, we got to the hilly part of the cemetery. Since there were four of us, we got off of the pedicab to not let the pedicab driver be too burdened with having four kids while pushing the pedicab up the hill.
Because we were kids, we roamed around. Sometimes we were faster or slower than the pedicab. We read the names written on the tombstone and whatnot. We stopped to pick up flowers, or stones, or whatever. When it was time to get on the pedicab, my brother’s friend suddenly asked me to hold out my hand and close my eyes. Because I was used to following whatever older people told me to do, I did as I was told. I held out my hand and closed my eyes. When I opened my eyes, I saw a leaf with a silver cocoon underneath it on my hand.
No doubt I was extremely amazed. I was mesmerized by the color and the shape. It was an upside-down B shape. I had never seen anything like it. I brought it home, stuck the leaf on one of my mum’s plants, and told my mum about it. I was excited about it. I had never been given such a unique thing before. I nurtured it, cautiously visiting it every day. My mum told me it will be a butterfly, but it could also be dead because it was moved from its original habitat. I was worried it was dead.
Sadly, one day I got home from school and it was gone. The leaf I had placed it on was gone. To this day I do not know if the cocoon managed to grow as a butterfly or if somebody just accidentally wiped it away when they watered the garden. Until now, I also did not know why my brother’s friend gave me the cocoon or where he found it. I did not ask then because I was too struck with the cocoon. But I doubt if I had asked he would tell me where he got it either.
Many years after, when I was on a mission in a small secluded village after the tsunami in 2004 hit the west coast of Aceh, a colleague of mine gave me a huge black and very much alive butterfly. The butterfly died soon after. It made me think about the silver cocoon I had gotten as a child. It felt like a strange and surreal full circle of the gift-giving from my childhood.
I may never meet anyone who gave me butterflies in my stomach, but I sure have people who handed me (future and dying) butterflies.”
“I was in my early twenties and working full time at an upscale Cajun seafood restaurant so the dating pool was pretty much guys I worked with or guys I met at the regular bar after work. I preferred the latter option because I had seen how awkward work could be when the dating didn’t work out but quickly realized the guys at the bar were almost exactly like the guys at work. They just worked at different restaurants. Now, many years later, I know the bar scene was not a good place to find a long-term relationship. Short-term flings and hookups were the more successful options when everybody in the place was living it up to relax post-shift.
So I was really excited to meet Aaron. It was his first time at the bar I frequented and it was refreshing to meet someone from the other side of town. He worked a nine-to-five job, had a car, had his own place, no roommates, and was cute to boot. We set a date for one of the rare Friday nights I wasn’t working and had a pretty decent time. I was a little worried about our chemistry but this guy was perfect on paper.
A few days later I was getting antsy because he hadn’t called. I wasn’t even sure at this point if I would want more than a second date but I wanted to at least get to make that decision. I was still contemplating what my answer would be when I walked out my door to go grocery shopping.
There was a gift bag and a card left outside my apartment door. It was from Aaron.
The card said ‘Had a great time the other night. Call me if you would like to do it again.’
Pretty slick huh? Two problems. The first one was Aaron hadn’t picked me up at my house. We had met at the bar and gone from there. How did he know where I lived?
The second problem was the gift. A very expensive bottle of Jean-Paul Gautier perfume and a non-fiction book about the world’s most notorious serial killers.
I didn’t make a second date.”
“This one was a strange, weird and hilarious gift.
My best friend turned 18 and my friends’ gang started this concept of giving 18 things. We wanted the gifts to be something meaningful and relatable and not expensive. So, the 18 gifts included a greeting card, a rose sapling, earrings, and ballons because she was crazy about them. We also got her milk and Hershey syrup because she liked them, honey, which she hated, and some particular gifts like Masala Dosa. She loved them. And lastly, cockroaches, because she was very scared of them.
She had suspected we would gift her a cockroach and was scared about it from the beginning. So when we started giving her the gifts, she would suspect each gift to be a cockroach. For instance, when we gave the Masala Dosa which we had gift wrapped, she thought it to be a cockroach and pressed it constantly to check if it was soo. The dosa was pitted by all of us! Fortunately, it was still yummy.
But here lies the twist. The cockroach we wanted to gift her was alive and we didn’t want to kill life due to our craziness. Another friend of mine had captured a cockroach in a box, fed it with sugar, and made holes to make sure the cockroach lived. We had packed it a few minutes before gifting it. When we presented it to her, she never anticipated it to be a cockroach and opened it bravely. It turned out the cockroach was actually a flying one and when it came out, she started to scream. The cockroach flew and sat on a sofa. Seeing how four to five of us started to shout because even we were scared of cockroaches.”
What Is It?
“The strangest gift I received? It was some sort of..umm. What the heck was it?
I was maybe in my twenties and was disappointed that, for once, my parents would not be around for my birthday because they had another function to attend. Some friends, my grandma, and my aunt did come by to help me celebrate. When it came time to open presents, I unwrapped one from my dad to find something strange. It was some sort of rectangular computery-looking box with plugs and ports in the back. The packaging showed a picture of what was inside, and all it really said was ‘external case.’ I was baffled looking at the thing. My guests were baffled looking at the thing. All we could do finally was set it aside.
I had to wait until two days later to ask my dad what this mystery box was. He explained it was an external case for a computer hard drive. Ah. Basically, something you put your hard drive or a CD drive in to hook it up to your computer. I believe at the time I was switching to a bigger hard drive in my computer and he had bought the case, thoughtfully, for me to put my old hard drive in and use as a backup drive. Being from the now-defunct Tiger Direct or some such discount store, the off-brand packaging was minimal, not doing a good job of marketing itself.
So the strangest gift I ever received was an enigma wrapped in a mystery, which turned out to be a humble hard drive case. Thanks, Dad.”