"Once there was a tree and she loved a little boy".
How I loved Shel Silverstein, the omniscient narrator of my own childhood and adolescence. I remember the hours I spent memorizing poems and reciting them to my reluctantly listening family members. "I can not go to school today" I would recite proudly and too loudly in my hope for the smile that would reward my recitation, following our family dinner.
"And she loved a little boy very very much, even more than she loves herself".
The Giving Tree had stayed nearby and I gave a new copy to my mother the year after my brother died. At fifteen, I had realized she was the real tree and indeed, my brother gone at nineteen was the boy.
"And the boy loves the tree, very much and the tree was happy".
At thirty, I bought another copy for own son on the occasion of his first birthday and I knew he was the boy now and I was the happy tree. We read that book over and over, a first time mother who took her job seriously, instilling the love of books in her fledgling toddler. Though he has never been a reader, he loves to be read to, even at age ten. Now, it is me and his three siblings, the five of us curled on my bed most evenings reading a menagerie of titles and yet, The Giving Tree circles through often.
"And the tree was happy".
On Easter, my youngest son Amos was dressed in his old fashioned John John and stitched on the front of the pale blue fabric was a little boy, swinging from a tree. My Amos, happy with his mother, I thought to myself. Being mother to a little boy with a severe language delay has been frustrating and overwhelming, and I have questioned my own mothering skills. Yet, I was struck with the reminder that my two year old son loves his tree and "mama" was his first word and still his only truly clear one. A chance for my group of four and I to huddle on my bed, with none too clean sheets, tangled up with the old comforter cover blotted with the ink stain, the responsible child I never did discover. We talked about me as the tree and the boy, as them and especially these days, as Amos. And we pondered and we were happy.
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