Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

What I thought was the perfect gift, a lucky bamboo plant, turned out to be "the gift that kept on giving."
“Lucky Bamboo Plant”
According to quote/counterquote “the gift that keeps on giving” was an advertising slogan, trademarked in 1925 as a phrase used to sell phonographs and records.   They noted though, that use of this phrase probably even began much earlier, to advertise banks, cameras and other products with long term applications.

Moving beyond the world of advertising, this phrase has been used in many other ways:


  • Watergate was referred to as “the gift that kept on giving.”  
  • President Obama used the phrase when referring to Boston Red Sox baseball efforts. 
  • Columnist Erma Bombeck wrote, “Guilt is the gift that keeps on giving.”  
  • Sexually transmitted diseases are ironically referred to as "the gift that keeps on giving.”  
  • In reference to acts of charitable giving
  • By recipients of chocolates or other highly caloric food gifts
  • In relation to gifts of a monthly subscription for magazines or flower delivery.

If I was to write a definition of "the gift that keeps on giving" as I have come to understand it, I would say the term refers to anything that provides a continued affect upon a recipient, though sometimes different than the original intent.

Back to the bamboo plant.  (Notice that I dropped the word “lucky”.)  I purchased it as a gift for my daughter and her college roommate.  I thought it would be a nice addition to their dorm room - a little bit of greenery, with a nice sentiment attached.  Bamboo plants are easy to care for, just requiring a little water once in a while.  They can be vertically tall (this one was only about 12 inches) but narrow, so they take up less space on a shelf than a traditional plant.  The one I gave them had a tag attached with the following message:
“Lucky Bamboo plant symbolizes luck and success because of its ability to grow quickly, healthly* and resilience.  It is recommended by Feng Shui Masters to improve the energy in the home and to give the person more energy to face today's challenging life styles.”
*This may not have been originally written by a person whose first language was English  - healthly is not a typo, but a direct quote.
This tag with instructions was attached to the plant
Perfect for college students, right?  Hardly.

While I was helping my daughter pack up to return home from college earlier this month, she suddenly held up the plant, and said, “Mom, we appreciated the thought, but please never buy me a gift like this again!”

I was confused.  First of all, it took me a minute to even know what she was referring to, having to step around and look over the mounds of possessions needing to be stuffed into suitcases and boxes.  These two girls had managed to live in a dorm room the size of a box with an unbelievable amount of stuff for over nine months.  How they did it is beyond me - every available inch of space had been utilized.  At first I thought it was the issue of finding a place to keep the plant that had been the problem.

My daughter explained.  “We have been so worried we would kill this thing.  Look at it - it is turning brown.  What happens to our luck if it dies?  It has to go home with us.  And you have to keep it next year, and make sure it stays alive.”

No way.  I am terrible with indoor plants.  The car is going to be more stuffed than this room.  We couldn't possibly take it home.  Besides, the “luck” was really just meant to last this semester.

They were unconvinced.  The plant rode the 600 miles to our house in a cup holder of the car.  I am now the caregiver of the plant, and responsible for the continued success and luck of my daughter and her roommate.

The gift that keeps on giving.  Right back at ya mom.


What is the worst gift you have ever received?



16 comments :

  1. Ha that is funny... I do love house plants and have had several lucky bamboo plants through- out many years ( LOL maybe not so lucky); anyway the truth is they do die .... I love a simple gift with a lot of thought...i guess my worst gift was or is a thoughtless one - something that is not about me at all... :)

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    1. I may need some advice from you, Marisa, if this bamboo plant begins to perish!

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  2. I can so relate to this! (black thumb here)

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    1. In retrospect, perhaps my gift should have been a 4 leaf clover, instead of something to take care of!

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  3. Hahaha! That is so funny! I have a suggestion if it does die just replace it with a slightly bigger version and just tell them to look how much it has grown! I'm still stuck on the fact that you have a college age child! When I picture you I have this vision of a thirty something momma who has it all together and her house is always spotless! ...and wears disguises to the grocery store! !!!

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    1. What a great idea, Rena!
      I don't know if I laughed harder at you thinking I was in my 30's, have it all together, or that my house is spotless! I'm a little more real than version of me that you have imagined, I'm afraid! About those disguises though ...

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  4. Bwahahahaha! Love it! The worst gifts I ever gave my kids were the noisy ones that seemed okay when we were in the store . . .

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    1. The ones they thought they just had to have... I know the ones!

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  5. Too funny! I've thought about getting a bamboo plant (and other "unkillables" for my desk) but I may have to skip now that you bring up the luck factor. I think the worst gifts have been an ongoing series of crudely painted ceramic figures that we can't part with because she'd be crushed, but they're NOTHING we're interested in. We've tried politely telling her, but without any luck.

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    1. Oh no, Heather - dust collectors that you don't like! Do you see her often, or can you just put them out when she is coming to visit?!

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  6. That's funny! I'm surprised they could keep it alive all semester. Now the pressure is on for you! Maybe you can sneak it back Parents' weekend!

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    1. Hmm - I hadn't thought of that! It could become “the gift that keeps on being given!”

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  7. I love this story Susan! It totally sounds like something my older son would worry about. You better keep it alive :)!

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    1. Too much pressure. I like Rena's idea of just replacing it with a larger one when it dies!

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  8. I once received a basket of plants that had been delivered by a florist. It was so infested with bugs that it killed every other plant in the house. Somewhat fitting I guess.....it was a gift basket on the occasion of my Mom passing away.

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    1. Oh no. I am sorry about both the occasion for the gift, and the gift itself. I think I would have been calling the florist!

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