Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Giving Tree

I can remember the first time I heard of the book "The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein. 

My college roommate told me about it.  "I love that book," she told me. "I can't believe you've never read it!"

A lot of people have recommended books to me over the years, and there are very few that I specifically remember.  In fact, as I'm sitting here trying to remember, I can think of maybe four books out of hundreds that were recommended to me where I still remember who told me about it and what I thought of it.  I think I still remember this because 1) it was a children's book and those weren't usually recommended in college - I  was just surprised by that and 2) I read it and I hated it.  And not just hated it a little.  I thought it was one of the most depressing stories I'd ever read.  I love a book that makes you feel strong emotion, even makes you cry, but this one was just depressing.

If you haven't read it, it's about a boy and a tree.  As a child, the boy loves to play in the tree's branches, eat her fruit, and swing on her swing.  And this makes the tree happy.  As he gets older, he needs money and the tree tells him to take all her fruit and sell it so the boy does.  And this makes the tree happy.  Then the boy wants to go away and the tree tells him to take all of her branches and make a boat.  The boy does and the tree is happy about that too.  Then the boy gets married and needs a house to live in and the tree tells the boy to cut her down and build a house from her wood.  The boy does and the tree is happy - sort of.  Because now the tree is just a stump and the boy is gone.

Then the boy comes back but he is old now and he just wants a place to rest.  A stump is a good place to rest.  So the tree/stump tells the boy/old man rest to rest on her.  And the tree/stump is happy again.

And I always thought that was an awful ending because the tree is just a stump at the end.  She's all used up and has nothing left to give anyone else.  How sad.  How depressing.

Then on Facebook, someone made a post about what children's books should really have been titled.  And the Giving Tree was called:

Oh.  OH.  

I get it now!  The tree is a metaphor for a mother!  She gives everything she has to make her child's life better and even if it takes everything she's got, she really is happy when they are happy.

I love this book.

I told Emily, "I'm going to get each one of you a copy of this book!"

Emily just looked at me and said, "We don't need a copy of that book.  We already know we're going to use you up and bleed you dry.  What's for dinner?"

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