Not Afraid to Ask: Memorable Gifts

By Nob Hill Gazette

What was the most unusual/over-the-top/goofy/ridiculous holiday gift you ever received? (A memorable white elephant gift, perhaps?)

A few years back, I received a goldfish during a holiday white elephant exchange. I chose the large, formally wrapped gift and whittled down ALL of the wrapping and packaging until the friendly fish revealed itself. What does one do with a goldfish at 8 p.m. at a holiday event? Well, I owned it, named him Jerry Maguire, and toted him around all evening as my plus one. Jerry and I developed a strong bond over the next 4–5 weeks, until he moved on. — JOEY NEVIN, SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

When I lived in New York,I dated this guy who liked to lovingly tease me about my poor sense of direction. So, for our first Christmas together, he thought it would be funny to give me an Atlas as a gag gift so that I could “find my way.” Needless to say, it didn’t go over very well. The following year he gave me a cashmere sweater and a Prada skirt. He is now my husband. — BRIDGET KING, JEWELRY DESIGNER

My sixth grade class at St. Patrick School in Larkspur held a Secret Santa and I was gifted a cassette single (that’s a feather-weight cassette tape that plays only one song on each side) of Bette Midler’s 1990 soft listening hit, From A Distance. — BETH SPOTSWOOD, DIGITAL EDITOR, ALTA

The most unusual Christmas gift I received was from my grandparents: a new toilet seat. It wasn’t a bidet or anything fancy like that, it was just a $20 toilet seat from Ace Hardware. — TOM SWEENEY, DOORMAN (RETIRED), SIR FRANCIS DRAKE HOTEL

Every year since I was younger my mother gifted me underwear in my stockings. No candy or treats. Just underwear. It was always awkward opening up the stockings in front of family. So now that I have three daughters of my own, I have continued the tradition of underwear in their stockings (lots of rolls in the eyes now that they are older), but, of course, add their favorite candy to the stockings as well! — GLORIA MALOUF, WOMENSWEAR FASHION DIRECTOR, SAM MALOUF AUTHENTIC LUXURY

In the early days we used to wait for Christmas because it was a big event. And my father was so busy in the Flower Market with the poinsettias and all of the Christmas wreaths and doing the deliveries and everything else. And at that time in our life we had to wait for him to come home before we started anything. So, my father comes home, and both my brother and I were very young kids. And we’ll never forget because he stopped and he says, ‘Here’s your gift.’ And he put it down. And it was two leather jackets, both the same. One for him and one for me. And that was so memorable to me because that was the first gift I ever got from my father. — BILL ZAPPETTINI, CEO, ZAPPETTINI GROUP

My adorable wife Gina offered me two peacocks. … She knew, of course, that I adore peacocks for the beauty and symbolism and had always admired the gorgeous collection that her family bred on their estate in Modesto. The peacock tome is stunning in its beauty and is considered the manifestation of the celestial phoenix on earth. Its mesmerizing colors and the “thousand eyes” on its tail promote fame and good luck in feng shui and enhance one’s protection and awareness. — JEAN-CHARLES BOISSET, PROPRIETOR & PRESIDENT, BOISSET COLLECTION

One year as a little girl in El Paso, Texas, Santa brought me tap shoes for Christmas. I was so excited, having already been in ballet for several years and being inspired by old dance movies. Sadly, the shoes didn’t fit. Being one of seven children, there was always quite a bit of commotion at Christmastime. After a few weeks passed, my mother ended up returning the tap shoes. We never did exchange them for the proper size or sign me up for tap lessons. It was a disappointment, but it did solidify my focus on ballet! — CELIA FUSHILLE, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR, SMUIN CONTEMPORARY BALLET

My hubby and I purchased a 21-acre vineyard in Napa Valley, after seeing it on the day after our wedding at Meadowood. To our amazement, the house/barn came with no heat, only a wood-burning stove. It was a joke at first, but we were freezing come December. As a joke, my friend gave me a lump of coal. It was hysterical! We did finally install a heater and air-conditioning, but my fondest memory was our first cold winter in 1995. Without heat, but romantic indeed. — KAREN CALDWELL, DESIGNER

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