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best gift ideas that made me cry

Have you ever gotten a gift that was so on point that you started looking for the nearest box of Kleenex? It’s one of those precious instances when the gifter may very well feel just as fuzzy and warm as the giftee. When you think about it, happy tears seem downright oxymoronic. Yale Scientific suggests that it’s a way for our bodies to maintain a middle ground between emotional highs and lows. Regardless of the mysterious biology behind it, happy crying is probably the best compliment you can give a gift-giver.

Hanna, an avid Tophatter shopper and Gift Happy reader who calls San Francisco home, has a couple of stories about gifts that made her teary-eyed (in a good way). We recently spoke with her to get the scoop—and by the end of our chat, we were the ones who needed tissues.

happy tears best gift ideas that made me cry

The Secret Santa Who’d Traveled the World

At the beginning of our chat, Hanna was upfront about her teary tendencies. “It’s pretty easy for me to cry,” she says. “I guess it’s my default emotion! If I’m a little sad or a little happy, I will cry. That’s why people either love or hate giving me gifts. If they’re comfortable with emotions, then they love it.”

transit cards best gift ideas that made me cry

Hanna tells a story about a Secret Santa party a few years back. When she opened the gift, she discovered a picture frame with transit cards from three special cities where she’s lived.

“There was a CharlieCard from Boston, an Oyster card from London, and a BART Clipper card from San Francisco,” Hanna recalls. “The friend who gave me this wonderful gift had been to all three cities in the past year. Later, he told me he’d been so excited to be Secret Santa to me, because I really express my emotions, and he knew I would love this gift. It was so thoughtful!”

So what did Hannah do with the picture frame? Well, she hung them on the wall above the coach in her living room. Around it, she placed maps and pictures of those cities; the wall became an ode to the nostalgic memories of having lived in each of those place. “They remind me of the places I loved to live,” Hanna says. “I went to high school in London. I attended college in Boston. Now I live in San Francisco!”

frames best gift ideas that made me cry

Get it on Tophatter for around $8

A Timeless Gift From Dad

Hanna remembers another gift that made her cry. She grew up in Detroit, and there weren’t many tall buildings in the area where she lived. When she was a kid, she was enamored of an old train station, the Michigan Central Train Depot. “It rises high above everything else,” Hannah explains. “It’s a striking building, a beautiful example of the Beaux-Arts Classic style of architecture, and it’s a lot like Grand Central Station in New York. The building was closed in 1988, and it always broke my heart that it was going to be torn down.”

transit exterior best gift ideas that made me cry

Last year, the Ford Motor Company bought the building and made plans to restore it and turn it into offices, with restaurants and retail shops on the bottom floor and housing up top. Hanna remembers when, as a surprise, her dad bought her a t-shirt with the train depot silkscreened on it. “I cried the minute I saw it,” she says. “I’m so excited that the depot won’t get knocked down!”

best gift ideas that made me cry train tee

Get it on Etsy for around $24

Meanwhile, things are looking up for the old train depot in Detroit, too. Some people who stripped things off the building after its closure have even returned them—including the main station clock! And when Hanna goes back to visit that restored treasure from her past, you can bet she’ll be wearing that shirt her dad gave her.

Share Your Stories

While they’re rarely intended to make someone cry (even if it’s in a good way), gifts can sometimes do just that. More often than not, these happen to be the more cost-effective gifts than their pricier, more ostentatious alternatives. If Hanna’s story has resonated with you, or reminded you of that time you got a gift that made you cry, we’d love to hear your story! Shoot an email to We’ll have our own tissues ready.

Prices are accurate and items in stock as of time of publication.

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