The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein (Large Print Hardcover) (New York: Harper & Row 1964)
By The Book Worm
I have a strategy for spending time with noisy human beings doing manic holiday things in the midst of all that complicated angst in family dynamics. Starting about ten years ago I spend a quiet evening during Advent with The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein. I didn’t read this book as a child. Why read it now, you ask. The Giving Tree was written before I was abused, so reading it is like being alive before being abused.
I use the large-print hardcover. It’s big. I prop it on my knees. I sit on the floor by whatever thing in my apartment I happen to decorate. (One year I decorated a chair. Don’t ask.) Turning each page I imagine reading that page before the bad times. I imagine myself as the tree, starting out lush and full of fruit. What a contrast to how I feel grown up. Usually I’m stressed out and sometimes down because it’s the holiday. Reading The Giving Tree changes my attitude. It’s like a different take on my personal sense of being forgotten. By the end of the book the tree is used up because it loved so much. It’s a comforting contrast to feeling used up as a kid by abuse. Reading the book I feel like the carefree kid I don’t remember being at Christmas.
Admittedly, this tradition is odd. Okay. But it gives me hope. I started life feeling gutted after the abuse and failed a lot. But, now, I have reserves and can spend myself in a healthy self-giving without repeating abuse. I have learned the big difference between self-loss and self-giving. Reading The Giving Tree during Christmas reminds me how my giving of self is Christ-like only when I freely choose to do so. You could say it is a lesson of comfort and joy I found in my little Christmas catechism.