In 1978, my burnout uncle unexpectedly showed up at Grandpa's farm for the Christmas gathering towing a small trailer filled with gifts. Great Grandma didn't let him unpack anything until he swore on Christ and the cross that none of it was bought with drug money, which didn't offend him since that was the usual way he made his living.

After he so swore, we kids and teens were drafted into moving two pallets worth of packages into the farmhouse parlor and stacking them into a mountain that dwarfed the 6-foot Christmas tree. 20+ members of that branch of the family gathered at the farm each year back then, and uncle Gene had brought a present for every damn one of them. Speculation ran rampant because he'd never kept a proper job for more than a week in his life, but he insisted that dope had nothing to do with it, and that furthermore he was leaving all that behind and these gifts were a celebration of going clean and returning to the straight and narrow.

Christmas morning revealed him to be two thirds truthful; as people unwrapped their presents, it became swiftly clear that he had not in fact bought them with drug money ...or any other type of money. The gifts were all random things that had obviously been boosted from somewhere, probably a shipping yard. The emphasis here is on random because (revealed later) each item was a theft of opportunity and he forgot what half of them were after he wrapped them, so he apportioned them by size in order of descending age.

Thus Great Grandma unwrapped a giant color TV - the kind with the feet - and Grandpa got an enormous crate of pineapples still packed for bulk transport. Aunt Sara was overjoyed at scoring an Amana Radarange, while her husband was less enthused about his twelve-dozen Fighting Illini T-shirts. Other things the adults received were a carton of cigars, a rolling toolbox, cases of perfume and toilet wax rings, a box of 25 claw machine stuffed animals, a year's supply of Tang, a stack of sombreros, a display case of dentists' drills and other things I don't recall.

The full list of oddities and who got what is hazy because the kids got to open our presents first and paid scant attention afterward, though I do recall people fretting that our hyper-Christian matriarch would flip shit about her house being full of blatantly hot merchandise. They needn't have worried; when she opened the TV her eyes went saucer-round, and from then on anyone who talked to her got told to shut their pie hole and help her get it running.

My older brother got a case of 400 small donut-shaped speaker magnets, which, for a 10 year old, was pretty kickin' rad. My gift was a case of boxes of rolls of Hall's Mentho-Lyptus® cough drops, which was also cool because those things are delicious.


Probably the worst gift I got was a pony. I mean like an actual, live pony. I should point out that I never, not once, expressed any form of interest whatsoever in live ponies. I WAS crazy about My Little Pony toys, so maybe my parents somehow thought that translated into me wanting an actual pony? It seems like they would have at least asked me first. I suppose a lot of kids would like having a pony, but it was honestly so boring. You're just sitting on this smelly animal while it walks along very, very, very slowly. And of course I had to ride it for years, because it wasn't like I could just refuse to ride it after my parents spent all that money getting me a pony. So I had to keep riding and feeding and brushing that pony for the rest of his life.


So I feel like an ungrateful bitch sitting here wanting to return all this useless crap everyone got me, but w/o receipts I don't think I can get cash to go places that carry things such as real denim jeans in fat sizes.

Drink-Mix Man

A few years ago, I bought a globe for a 7-year-old relative. Just your run-of-the-mill, non-electronic, non-fun classroom globe. A buddy pointed it out to me at Target and tried to sell me on how unique and awesome a gift it would make.

The lameness of this choice should have been obvious to me, but I swear to God--as I stood in Target pondering this disappointment, no less than two children around the same age as my target walked by and asked their parents for one. After I put it in my cart, a slightly frantic fellow shopper also jogged up to me and asked me where I got it, and if there were any more. I wasn't sure at first, but these three passers-by and my cajoling friend left me feeling pretty darn validated and excited by my purchase.

The crushed hopes of this kid opening her toy-sized box and getting a classroom accessory were tangible to say the least.


My father once purchased a pair of lawn rakes for my brother and I. Our names were engraved on the handles.


I was about 14, and really into Lord of the Dance (I was an Irish dancer, in my defence!) So one birthday, I opened my card from my grandpa's girlfriend, and inside were a pair of tickets to Lord of the Dance! I got really excited!

But then I looked at them. They were used. They were a pair of tickets from a show she and her friend had attended a few months ago.

She wasn't doing it maliciously, or anything. She just genuinely thought I would enjoy a pair of used tickets.

Needless to say, I threw them out.

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