The Best and Worst Holiday Gifts Ever

Sometimes They Shine… Sometimes They Sing

November 2019

Everybody has them: Memories of their best holiday gift ever, and of their worst holiday gift ever. So, we asked various folks from around town to share with us some of these memories. The good news? You are not alone with getting some real bombs. But the better news? You are also not alone in those warm memories of that wonderful gift that made the holiday shine.

Double Entendre

Best: A surprise Christmas engagement I really wasn’t expecting.
Worst: A Dyson hairdryer to throw me off the trail.

Ashley Magluta
Director of Events, Coral Gables Museum

Fantasy and Reality

Best: Year after year growing up, books of adventure (Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Kidnapped”) and sports (“Highpockets” by John Tunis) and history (“The Little Maid” series about the Revolutionary War”).

Worst: The never-ending-never-got on Christmas: A Red Ryder BB gun. My mother was quite sure I would hurt myself or others.

David Lawrence
Former Publisher, Miami Herald
Chair, The Children’s Movement of Florida

Waiting for the Other to Fall

Worst: The kids gave me a shoe and one sock one year with a promise of the other shoe and the other sock the following year. 

Best: The other shoe and sock

Nelson Lazo
CEO, Doctors Hospital

Too Cool and Too Hot

Best: A Lionel model train set brand new and ready to go! Unfortunately for my father, he had to construct the entire platform, all the props, and assemble the train – and work out the bugs

Worst: A hand-knitted, ill-fitting, mauve, lopsided, ugly wool sweater decorated with bizarre forms meant (I think) to represent reindeer and Santa. Since the gift was from a favorite aunt who came to Christmas lunch, I had to bake in this hideous contraption and accept the really snide looks and below the belt comments from friend and foe alike — to say nothing of my siblings!

Jack Lowell
EVP, Collier International Chair, Coral Gables Community Foundation

Beauty and the Beast

Best: The birth of my beautiful grandson Matthew on December 26. It forever enhanced the celebratory spirit of the season, and brings back wonderful memories of the day a bright young man (and excellent athlete to boot!) was brought into this world. 

Worst: A hideous Christmas tie that was given to me in the early 1970s by my brother Gonzalo. It was a circus clown Christmas tie. It was so horrendous as to be laughable.

But, given my penchant for pleasing my siblings, I was forced to wear it at Christmas occasions for years. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but as I look back on photos from that era, my sartorial challenges clearly ruined many festive occasions.

Raúl Valdés-Fauli
Mayor, City of Coral Gables

Bling and Black-and-White

Best: My most memorable and cherished Christmas gift came from my dad. It was during the early 1980s in Coral Gables. The year is often lovingly referred to as the “Cartier Christmas” when everyone received an iconic Cartier red box! My gift was an exquisite 18k gold Cartier choker of carved jade and silverium beads with matching bracelet and earrings. I treasure it more each day. The piece is now part of my vintage collection. Thank you Papi!

Worst: My worst gift was a printer for my computer. Ugh! My hubby had the best intentions since I needed a replacement. However, this girl is all for the frilly and fashionable. Needless to say, it was returned.

Karelia Martinez Carbonell, President, Historical Preservation Association of Coral Gables

A Slice and a Bang

Best: A Swiss Army pocketknife with all of the attachments. It was given to me by my Uncle Dennis O’Connell who always gave gifts that were a little forward thinking for my age. I was 12 or so. I still have it and use if frequently.

Worst: A Red Ryder BB gun (also at age 12). Don’t get me wrong, I liked it at first, but with the damage done to the real estate, flora, and fauna of my small suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio, the initial shine wore off quickly with the ensuing punishment.

Patrick M. O’Connell
Senior VP, Berkshire Hathaway Homeservices/EWM Realty
Chair, Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce

A Dog and a Real Dog

Best: A puppy. Since I’m an only child it meant a lot to me to have a dog I could share life with. 

Worst: A sweater knitted by a relative. It was too small but I had to wear it anyway for family pictures.

Andrew Peach, Sr., General Manager, Shops at Merrick Park

Grows on You

Worst: Many, many years ago my brother’s girlfriend got me a set of dinner trays for Christmas. I thought it was the most bizarre thing to give someone. They came in a huge box too – what a disappointment when I opened it.

Best: For some reason I kept them. Now, my kids love them and use them all the time. I’ll never get rid of them.

Christopher B. Spuches
Attorney, Chair of Coral Gables Museum Board

Bionics and Books

Best: A Steve Austin “Bionic Man” action figure that had an incredible magnified eye socket to see through for “bionic vision” (I also received the Oscar Goldman doll, too, with the exploding briefcase!) Amazing! 

Worst: Pretty much what I get every holiday from my sister since I moved to Miami more than 25 years ago – a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card. Every single year!

Mark Trowbridge
President & CEO, Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce

Leather and Leaks

Best: A leather briefcase from Allen Edmonds. When I completed my higher education degree my parents told me it was time to start my career. I was armed with knowledge from my classes and ready to take on the world. At that point I was using a backpack to carry everything around. When my mom and dad found out about this, they said it was time for me to upgrade to use a “big boy backpack” and gave me the briefcase. I have used this same briefcase for over a decade and continue to get compliments on it.

Worst: Someone gave me a portable clothing steamer. The wrapping job was pristine with a very impressive bow. Upon opening the gift, I noticed the packaging looked a little old and worn but figured maybe it had been dropped in the store or by UPS if it was ordered online. When I went to use the steamer, I took it out of the packaging and noticed that there was still a little water in the steamer. This is when I realized the person who gave me the gift had wrapped up their steamer rather than purchasing a new one.

Michael Walsh
Senior Financial Advisor, Evensky & Katz/Foldes Financial Wealth Management

Cook It, Don’t Wear it

Best: I’ve had friends and family tell me that I’m difficult to buy for (I could see why they would think so) but I’ve realized that absolutely anything from Williams-Sonoma makes me squeal in delight! I’ve received gifts ranging from beautiful knives to silicone spatulas that say Coco’s Kitchen on the handles. You can never go wrong with that! 

Worst: Any item of clothing, just because I’m difficult to fit straight off the rack. Nothing ever fits correctly.

Coco Palenque Torre, Board of Directors, Beaux Arts