Sep 12, 2006

What Do You Think I Am, a Martyr?

Man, I hate The Giving Tree. My friend Alice gave me a copy of the book twenty-two years ago. We were both grown up, barely. I thought it was a cute story, great illustrations. I still love the illustrations. But I read it last night to Will and fought back tears the whole time. About the boys someday leaving us and only coming back to ask us for money. And things. And us being so desparate for connection that we give them whatever they want. Now it's cheese sticks and trips to the New Jersey Aquarium, and later it will be down payments and tuition for the grandkids, our limbs, our trunks, and then "We have to be going now. See you at Christmas."

Later John and I were talking and I cried, "We're going to be stumps. Stumps.But we'll be happy, right?" It's like Ham in End Game, the legless guy who lives in the trash can. So here I present:

The Sometimes Giving Tree

Boy: Hey, do you have any money?

Tree: Do you think money grows on trees? I'll let you sell half my apples in the city, if you make apple butter and apple pies with the rest and split it with me.

Years later

Boy: I need to build a house. I need lots more money now.

Tree: You didn't get the memo about me having no money? What, didn't you invest ANY of that apple money? Can't you get a job making apple butter and pies?

Years later

Boy: I need to get far away from everything. Can I have money for a plane ticket?

Tree: Sigh. I feel like a broken record! As if you know what a record is. Just go back to your wife and tell her you're sorry.

Years later

Boy: I'm tired. What can you do for me?

Tree: Why don't you take that blanket and lie under my shade.

Boy: Thanks, that's perfect.

Tree: It is.


Amy said...

I like your version MUCH better. That stupid book has always pissed me off. In college, I saw it as an afront to feminism.

The other children's book that really gets me (but I do have friends that LOVE it!) is I'll Love You Forever. It's about a mom that rocks her son to sleep in various stages of life, including when he's grown and has children of his own. That's not the bad part--what is HORRIBLE is that she sneaks into his home in the middle of the night to "comfort" him. Can we say "co-dependency"?

Scrivener said...

I so agree with you about that damned book. Someone gave me a copy when I was in high school (how could that be true? I wish I remember the story behind it, but I know I didn't buy it and I got a copy of it in high school) and at the time I thought it was just slightly creepy but sort of sweet. Ella found it some time ago and asked me to read it, and it was all I could do to finish the thing. They were reading it at school the other day when I got there and I had to bite my tongue when the teacher's assistant said it was her favorite book.