The Eye of the Beholder

“What’s the worst Christmas present you ever received?”

That was a question put forth to a number of women in an online group I had belonged to years ago.  This same question came up yet again at a party I attended during the holidays last year.  I don’t remember all of the answers given now.  I do recall the one reply that stands out in my mind; one woman did say that her husband gave her a doormat for Christmas. 

There was a moment of silence while everyone digested that.  My first thought was that it was rather practical, if not romantic, and that her husband just might not be one of those deep and sensitive guys…..or maybe she had been complaining that they really needed a doormat and that is what leaped into his mind while he was out scrambling for something she might like? But then there was the double entendre that could be attached to such a gift; the psychological meaning of a woman being given a doormat by her husband that could speak subliminal volumes.  Given that, we decided that probably ranked right up there as not one of the finest of Christmas presents.

I don’t have a “worst” gift, and if I did, I don’t remember it because whatever it was, it was a gift, and generally I feel pretty lucky and rather grateful to be gifted.  As a matter of fact, I have had a number of Best Gifts, and they are not rated necessarily by expense or want.   But I did have a “Strangest Gift” story that I could share,  and I offered it up to everyone as my contribution to the conversation.

Years ago for Christmas, my Then Husband gave me an Ant Farm.

This elicited groans and comments from everybody.  As a matter of fact, they voted it right up there as one of The Worst.  However, I found it necessary to explain that this was not a Worst Gift, at least not for me – which is a perfect example of how things really can be in the eye of the beholder.  As a matter of fact, when I opened my Ant Farm gift, I almost cried from laughing. I thought it was totally cool and it was totally aimed at me.

I am the kind of person who really appreciated an Ant Farm.  I found the concept fascinating.  And remarkably, without actually sharing this fact, I had always sort of wanted an Ant Farm, right up there with wanting X-ray glasses that let you see through walls and clothing, or Sea Monkeys that actually would look like little monkeys that wore crowns, or a puppy that would fit in a tea-cup. I wanted Magic Moon Rocks that would grow right out of the water and look like magic castles.  I wanted all those things advertised on the back pages of the comic books I grew up with.  An Ant Farm had to be seriously cool.  I had images of a busy little city as the ants scurried about through the tunnels, going about their business.

My aunt farm was two simple pieces of plexi with a green snap-on top and bottom that had images of farms and fences on it – a Farm, if you will.  The sand that was to be placed between the sheets of plexi was white and the consistency of cat litter.  There were no ants in the box, but a postcard that you mailed away to order your ants. This was the only disappointing part, as I had wanted instant gratification.  Since it was the dead of winter, it was recommended that now might not be a good time to order ants by mail.  It appeared I was going to have to wait until Spring to get my Ant Farm going.

By the time Spring rolled around, I had misplaced the card for my Free Ants.  But not to worry, as I went out in the yard and captured a few local ants.  Of course, I did not have a Queen, but I figured the other ants would figure something out regarding a Queen, if they really had to have one.  Or couldn’t one of the worker ants morph into a Queen? I am kind of forgetting all the ant entomology I had accumulated, but I figured the captured ants would make a new home for themselves, start tunneling, and provide “Hours of Fascination”.

Despite following instructions to the letter, I kept finding dead ants amidst the “sand”.  They moved a few grains around, but for the most part, there were no real tunnels and it was not the Ant Metropolis I had envisioned.  No cities of bustling activity going on here.  After numerous attempts and a series of dead ants,  I became a bit disheartened and finally gave up.  The Ant Farm went back into the box.  A few years later I donated it to one of my nephews.  I don’t know if he ever attempted to get it going and if so, if he had any more success than I did.

Although ultimately it was a failure, I look back with much fondness on that gift. The memory of the feelings I had upon receiving it remain after all these years.  Granted, it is an unusual gift for a husband to give his wife, and while it was not romantic or extravagant or practical, I think perhaps it was so special because the gifting invoked thought on the part of the bestower, illustrating an understanding of who I am.

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5 Responses to The Eye of the Beholder

  1. I have a dim memory of your ant farm – at least I think I do! ox

  2. Jack says:

    I had an ant farm as a kid and we had sent away for the ants. ( I can’t remember the prices or details) I do remember that they arrived in a little plastic vial, and of the couple of dozen ants or so sent, only two or three survived.
    I still want to create my own ant farm, as big as the wall, with lights to backlight the tunnels, and a red light brooding chamber for eggs and larvae. And a queen!
    Just another thing my wife has Forbidden…

  3. annieb says:

    That is definitely an unusual gift!

    My worst gift ever? One Christmas I received a vacuum cleaner, a microwave, and a toaster oven. I blew a gasket – and advised husband-person that these items were not gifts, they were appliances. I told him that if he did not redeem himself properly on Valentine’s Day the marriage was over.

    If I remember correctly, Valentine’s Day came in a Little Blue Box. The marriage was saved.

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