I have to say over the years I've given a lot of boring practical gifts. As a list making family, we typically all shop from the list, making few exceptions.
I remember as a kid getting gifts from Santa - and knowing that there was no way our parents could have afforded anything that super cool (a Barbie dream house, a boom box).
I've received several really awesome practical gifts - like the TV I got my freshman year of college for my dorm room. Or the freezer that Jay's parents got us last year (along with a vacuum sealer) so I can stock pile meats when they are on sale.
I have to say, however, that the best gift ever given/received around me wasn't given by me. It wasn't even given to me.
Picture it - East Tennessee. 1950s (I think).
She takes it to a jeweler and has it reset into a beautiful diamond necklace, then throws the now empty gold ring setting into a jewelry box at home.
Now I really have no clue if she ever took it out. Cried for her failed marriage. Cried when her daughter would take the grandchildren to visit him, only to have to turn around and come home because of his drunken state. Cried later, when he died of liver failure.
Or if it just sat in that box.
Until a week or so after she died - 60 years later.
Its hard to put in words how beloved my Great grandmother was. She wasn't your typical woman of her era, yet she was sweet and kind. At her funeral, people recalled how she would send thinking of you cards, that always seemed to reach the recipient at the just the right time.
I was blessed to know her better than all the other great grandchildren because I was a sick kid. Sick so much I almost failed 1st grade due to missed classes. Because my mom and grandmother both worked, watching me was left to my great grandmother.
She'd put an old lady rain bonnet on me and let me walk to the mail box.
She'd fix me orange jello and cottage cheese as an afternoon snack.
As much as I loved her, my mom loved her more.
When we were cleaning out her house after her passing, my mom came across the empty shell of a ring and asked to keep it.
She passed away in April, and that ring sat in my mom's jewelry box until about November of that year. When my dad snuck into my mom's things.
Fast forward to Christmas morning, my mom has opened all of her gifts save one in a shirt box. My dad is in his chair with the video camera. As per her normal routine, my mom shakes, pinches, shakes again and tries to guess what it is.
Tearing off the paper reveals your standard Christmas present box. In the box is an only uniform shirt of my dads. My mom lifts it up, then looks around in the box for something else. This can't be her gift.
When she finds nothing else in the box she checks the pockets of the shirt, she finds a ring box.
As she opens it, she looks up at my dad with tears in her eyes.
"Turn that thing off."
As soon as my dad puts down the video camera, my mom bursts into tears. My dad had taken the empty shell and made it whole again.
And that is the story of the Best. Gift. Ever.