Disappointing Gifts

I don’t think I was ever disappointed by a gift I received as a child. No, I didn’t always get exactly what I thought I wanted, but I always enjoyed the gifts I got: toys, clothes, books. Always books. Lots of books. Wonderful books!

I do, however, remember being often disappointed in the reactions to gifts I gave. I was always picking up stuff—shiny things, pretty things, interesting things—and giving them to family and friends. Small things, at first: shiny stones, dried leaves, a crow feather, a wheel from a toy truck, a piece of broken glass. My mother OOOHed and AHed, and thanked me before she threw them out, but they always wound up in the trash. My other relatives, and the parents of my friends, weren’t so polite. My treasures still got tossed in the trash, but the action was accompanied by loud words like “dirty” and “ugly” and “smelly,” and louder admonitions to NEVER do anything like that again.


My friends weren’t much more receptive. I’d hand a worm to Karen, and she’d squeal and run to her grandma. I’d give Phyllis a grasshopper, and she’d put her hands behind her back and cry.

Very disappointing.

When I was older, and we moved to New York State, my gifts got bigger. At first, we lived in an apartment complex on the edge of a large, undeveloped field. My friends and I would wander around there after school, playing Cowboys or Cops’n’robbers or Store or School or—my favorite—Jungle Explorer.

field mouse

Field mouse

It was larger neighborhood, and I found friends who were more my style. We ALL brought home stuff like this: cute furry field mice, lively little chipmunks, and the occasional squirrel tail or dead bird.

None of the parents appreciated our gifts.


We couldn’t understand that at all.


After all, how could anyone resist a face like THIS?

Eastern garter snake

Eastern garter snake

Eventually, I gave up.

From the time I was nine, I decided to keep my treasures to myself and give people boring gifts: pictures I drew, crocheted pot holders, or small store-bought gifts.

Boring stuff.

VERY disappointing!


Photo credits:
Snake: Jennifer Schlick, program director, Jamestown Audubon Society, Inc. (permission requested)

Field mouse: Photographer unknown. Found it on a site of supposedly copyright-free images, and have requested information from the site owner. If anyone knows the original source, please let me know.

About Kat

Cat lover, singer, early music addict, reads a lot. Former R&D chemist with an obsessive need for variety. Now active as a freelance technical writer and editor, web designer, photographer, computer coach, and trainer. Owner, MasterWork Consulting (http://www.masterworkconsulting.com/).
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4 Responses to Disappointing Gifts

  1. Kathy says:

    I think because my gifts to my parents were not well received as a child, I had a tendency to hang onto most everything that my son ever gave me. Eventually, they went when they wore out. Pictures he drew for me would sit on my refrigerator for years.

    • Kat says:

      It’s a lovely way to make a kid feel valued. My family was pretty good about keeping and displaying pictures and art projects. They were displayed until long after I felt they were an embarrassment. (What 13-year-old wants to see an old stick-figure drawing by her 7-year-old self on the refrigerator?) It was the bugs and feathers and stones that were my gift failures—seen as nuisances rather than as gifts. Talked to my mother about it a few years before she died. Turns out, she felt that if she displayed ‘dirty’ stuff I found outside, the neighbors and relatives would think she was a bad mother. Unfortunate, since I think she would have enjoyed the field mouse.

  2. Beth says:

    LOVED this! My grandkids (ages 6 to 2) give me lots of wonderful little things. Rocks, feathers, pine cones, nuts that the squirrels have nibbled on, and often, little art projects that they’ve made from similar items. I have all of their treasures on my desk and the shelves that are beside it, and every time I sit to write, I smile.

    • Kat says:

      Thank you, Beth. You sound like the perfect grandmother! This one was fun to write. I had just seen the photo of the garter snake on a blog about NYS animals, and it triggered a whole string of memories.

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