As a child, it is hard to understand the rarity of a truly happy ending. Because they are everywhere for us when we are six and seven. We don’t have to look very far to find one. We are, in a way, sheltered from the cold, cruel fact that happy endings are less likely than sad ones. The thought does not compute.
When my mother gave me “The Giving Tree,” I couldn’t contain my excitement. I loved Shel Silverstein’s poetry and knew this book would be no different. I read the entirety in less than 20 minutes. And I didn’t love it as much as I thought I would.
“Mom, what is this?” I asked, and she simply looked at me. ”What is this? Why would you let me read this?”
She didn’t understand. She just continued looking at me.
“That boy is TERRIBLE! The tree loved him, and he used her! He forgot all about her and then he just USED her!”
I remember she smiled a bit, but just continued to look at me with simple curiosity.
“Well?! That’s not fair!”
“Is it unfair? Or is there something beautiful in a love like that? It’s endless and unconditional. Isn’t that beautiful?” she asked me, and I just stared at her. Beautiful? How could that be beautiful? It felt nothing but lonely to me.
“That’s what happens, sweetheart. People change and they move on. Things change. Life changes. We grow up and grow old. It’s inevitable - the passing of time. But love is always there, surrounding you. And that is beautiful.”
Years later, I still get sad and feel terribly lonely whenever I read this book. But it has shaped me in a way that no other book has. It opened my eyes, it forced me to question the “happy ending” and, more specifically, change. And made me - just a little bit - begin to admit how beautiful that can be.