Day 20: The best (and worst) gifts of all

When I was in elementary school, I really wanted an Easy-Bake Oven. I even wrote a short story based on a dream where my family and I were trapped during a tornado and I saved ourselves from starvation by baking cakes in my oven. But year after year, Christmas, Hanukkah, and my birthday passed in one celebratory swoop, and once again I emerged without an oven. Eventually I accepted that my dream wasn’t meant to be.

But one day when I was 17, I came home and found a box on our kitchen counter with a large bow on it. My mother and sister had remembered what I had wanted for years: I finally had my oven. I’ve received more timely, useful, and extravagant gifts in my life, but none have surpassed this one.

Giving a great gift is an act of empathy, and the best gifts—many of which reporter Kate Murphy compiled in a not-so-scientific field study for this story—show that the giver was paying attention. (As for the worst gifts, just wait until you get to the diamond earrings.)

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