“What am I to do with this gift?” Ivy sighs when she stares at the plastic tree, which is about four feet tall with a base made of indeterminable material painted brown to look like a real flower pot.
It was sent to her by one of her clients. Ivy and her husband Tom Tsai are the owners of the Ivy Training Center in Edison Township, which provides language assistance to immigrants in the area. The center assisted a client with interview training and the client got the job he wanted. The plastic tree is the thank you gift.
“Well, I don’t like fake flowers and fake trees.” Ivy says.
“You can throw it away if you don’t like it.” Lulu says. Lulu is a jobless anthropologist Ivy “rescued”. Lulu had job offers in Australia, but her husband refused to move away from New Jersey since it’s impossible for him to get a new job as good as the one he already had. So Lulu had to sacrifice her career for her family.
“No. That’s bad luck. Throwing away gifts symbolizes not accepting the good things life is giving you. I will never do that. I mean I can throw it away after a year, but not right now.” Ivy says. Like most of the business people in the immigrant community, Ivy is extremely superstitious, as if the superstition can help ward off all the insecurity and uncertainty in life.
“But you are not really accepting it, are you? I mean you are mentally rejecting it even if you physically place it in the office.” Lulu says. Lulu is a scholar, but she can be very blunt in her conversation. Ivy has warned her repeatedly that she needs to flatter people whenever she speaks to them, but Lulu’s improvement has been slow.
“Wait, I think I can give it to somebody else.” Ivy says.
“How about that newly opened Asian restaurant on Old Post Road?” Lulu says.
“Good idea.” Ivy says. She finds a ribbon and a card from the closet, writes “congratulations” on the card. She hesitates about writing down her own name on the card.
“Just say ‘your affectionate neighbor’. We are three blocks away, but still we are neighbors.” Lulu says and Ivy follows. Then Ivy calls the two high school summer interns over and ask them to deliver the tree to the new restaurant.
Two months later, when Lulu visits her favorite cosmetic shop to get her supply of Innisfree facial cream, she sees the same plastic tree there.
“That’s the gift from the wedding studio. I got them a discount on some South Korean foundations and they gave this to me.” Armei said. Armei is the minority owner of the cosmetic shop and the one who’s taking care of the shop every day. The majority owner only comes once a week or sometimes once every two weeks.
“Well…” Lulu tries to say something but is interrupted by Armei.
“I am thinking of giving this to Ivy Training Center for the discount English classes I attended.” Armei says.