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."

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.

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?

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