Saturday, January 15, 2011

Our Giving Tree

Have you read the book The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein? I would guess you have as it is very popular in most first grade classrooms. Simply put, the seemingly simple story chronicles a boy growing up and his changing relationship with an apple tree. It starts like this:

“Once there was a tree... and she loved a little boy. And every day the boy would come and he would gather her leaves and make them into crowns and play king of the forest. He would climb up her trunk and swing from her branches and eat apples. And they would play hide-and-go-seek. And when he was tired, he would sleep in her shade. And the boy loved the tree....very much. And the tree was happy.”

As the story continues, the tree gives of herself to the boy until there is nothing left of the tree but a stump. Even then the tree offers her stump to the boy to rest.

Literary scholars have debated the meaning of the story. Some say that it is a story of greed- greed of the boy who continually takes from the tree. Others see it as a commentary on childhood in that a child’s needs and desires get more complex as he grows. Still others see it as a love story- one about a mother’s selfless giving to her child, to the point of depleting all her resources, and still loving the child in the end.

I like to believe the last interpretation.

We have our own giving tree in the back yard. It is an orange tree. Every fall it develops fragrant, milky white buds. Come January, the sweetest, juiciest oranges are begging to be picked. The tree produces so much we always have enough oranges to share with family and friends.

A few of her branches climb over into our elderly neighbor’s yard. I have offered to have his side trimmed back but he refuses. The tree gives to Jerry as well.

Our tree has seen her share of abuse. Franklin likes to whack at her with sticks, and swords. Vincent will pick her fruit before it is ripe. Rain water will puddle up around her base after a storm, leaving the soil surrounding it mucky for days. The dogs have peed on her trunk.

Yet, the tree still gives. Much like a mother.

And the family was happy.

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