A Diamond, A Motorcycle, A Wooden Ring: Best Gifts Ever

It's the gift-giving season, so we asked listeners, "What's the best present you've ever received?" NPR's Rachel Martin shares three of their stories, of a poignant family heirloom, a childhood toy that opened up new worlds and a ring that was labor of love.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We are well into the season of giving, receiving, and shopping for gifts. Now, I'm willing to guess that most of the presents you've received over a lifetime are lovely things that you treasure for a while, or when you were a kid, maybe for an hour, and then those presents find their place on a shelf in the basement. But what about those rare gifts that just knock it out of the park? We asked our listeners, what is the best gift you have ever received? And we got all kinds of answers, from coveted childhood toys to anonymous gifts from strangers. Two different listeners actually told us about packages stuffed with fall leaves from New England - evidently the perfect gift for displaced northeasterners. Stephanie Soduk of Canton, Ohio, told us about her favorite gift - one that spanned multiple generations.

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MARTIN: It starts with a pair of diamond earrings her dad got for her mother. Stephanie's mom loved them and she wore them everywhere.

STEPHANIE SODUK: She was a very tasteful, classy lady, who always kind of looked her best.

MARTIN: When Stephanie was 16, her mother died of breast cancer and the earrings went into storage. Five years later, she was celebrating Christmas with her family. Under the tree were two small boxes from her dad - one for her and her sister.

SODUK: We opened them up and it was a matching pair of necklaces made out of these earrings.

MARTIN: Now, Stephanie wears her necklace just about everywhere.

SODUK: I'm wearing it right now, actually. And it's really neat to me that when somebody compliments it or asks about it, I can tell them a story. And that shares a piece of me. And it's really special.

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MARTIN: Sometimes, the perfect present doesn't even require an occasion. Tom Griffin's favorite gift came completely out of the blue. One day, his dad asked him to go around the side of the house to grab him a hammer.

TOM GRIFFIN: And sitting there was this little red Honda Trail 50 motorcycle. And you could almost hear the neural pathways crackling as I started realizing the potential of this and what an awesome thing this was.

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MARTIN: Tom's family had just moved to a farm in rural Casey County, Kentucky, without a lot of entertainment options for an 8- or 9-year-old boy, so the bike was his ticket to adventure.

GRIFFIN: One of my favorite things to do on it was to just tear through the cow pastures, and inevitably I would, you know, run into a cow patty. And there's this particular smell like no other smell in the world of burning cow poop on an exhaust.

MARTIN: That smell still has the ability to transport him to that time and place.

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MARTIN: The best gift Marissa Rosado ever received came from her boyfriend John.

MARISSA ROSADO: My birthday was coming up, and I, lacking all subtlety, pointed out a ring that I liked. And it was a sterling silver ring that looked like a tree stump. And the jeweler would take the initials of the recipient and their loved one and carve them into the tree stump ring in a little heart as if it were a real tree.

MARTIN: But John, whom Marissa described as a lumberjack in an urban setting, thought he could do one better, Marissa explains.

ROSADO: Why fake a tree? I'm going to get you a part of a tree, and make you something out of a part of a tree. There.

MARTIN: He got a piece of oak wood and secretly made a ring for her himself.

ROSADO: And then he carved our initials into the wooden band. And on the morning of my 25th birthday, not only did he get me flowers, not only did he make me breakfast, he presented me with the ring. And I've never been more moved by anything anyone has ever done for me.

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MARTIN: The last year's been tough for the couple. They broke things off for a bit after John moved to San Francisco for a job. But they are back together and Marissa is moving to San Francisco too.

ROSADO: He's a keeper.

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