It makes most people’s favorite book lists.
I think it sucks.
I know, if you know me in real life—or if you know me through my writing—you know I’m a positive, upbeat, lovey sort of girl, most of the time. So I should love The Giving Tree, right? It’s all about love and giving and shiny happy hippie bullsh*t. (Yes, that is a bit of bitterness you note there. Deal).
Let me break this down for you another way:
Character number one gives and gives until she has nothing left.
Character number two takes and takes giving nothing in return, simply asking for more and more of character one.
And character number one is happy about this. Happy to give and give with nothing in return and no gratitude until she has nothing left to give. “Take everything I have. Take whatever you need. I don’t matter. Only what you need matters.”
What. The. F*ck.
My brother tells me (almost daily) that there are two kinds of people: givers and takers.
I’d like to believe that many of us fall in the middle here. I know that there are some people in my life who both take and give. And then there are others…well…
I love giving. I was raised to believe that if you can help someone, you do. Period. So I do. I am a giver. Doesn’t there come a point though, where if all you ever do is give, there is no mutuality? If all you ever do is give, eventually all you are left with is a stump. Maybe the tree was happy with that. Not me, though.
I would tell a different story:
Once, there was a gracious willow,
swaying in the breeze.
But leaf by leaf
branch by branch
her voice was taken from her
until it was nothing but a whisper.
When all she heard was
“What you are saying doesn’t matter”
“What you need is not important”
It was an axe, chipping away at her beautiful bark
tearing her branches
until all that was left of her voice was one dark, sweet morsel of sap
stuck in her throat.
only a shadow of herself saying
“I told you so.”
So she took that last dark sweet bit of sap
cried it into the hem of her dress
and wrung it out to make ink
to write a different story that says:
Real love is nothing like The Giving Tree.
Love doesn’t strip you of your voice, your sense of self.
Love doesn’t break you, it builds you up.
it’s give and take and give back again.
Love puts blossoms on our branches,
and invites birds to come nest.
Love is two trees with space in between
where we can rest and play in each other’s shade.