Monday, January 10, 2011
Character Assassination Carousel: "The Giving Tree"
Mr. Shel Silverstein
Where the Sidewalk Ends
Runny Babbit Land
Land of Painful Reality
Re: That damn boy
Dear Mr. Silverstein,
It has recently come to my attention that I am a fictional character. As such, you'd expect that I'd not be able to write you a letter because (a) not only am I fictional, I'm a stump and (b) you're dead. But here we are in the blogiverse where all things are possible. And so I ask you, can you give me a rewrite?
I understand that you're a very popular author and that some of my fictional brethren that have come to life through your writing are actually quite pleased and lucky to be a apart of the English-speaking cannon of children's literature. I discovered through your Web site (another neat trick for a dead dude) that there's a lion who ends up noshing marshmallows and punctuating a few hides with his shotgun. There's a collection of topsy turvy animals lead by one happy-go-lucky (or is it lappy-ho-gucky?) Runny Babbit. There are rhinos and giraffes, all of whom seem to be a bit better off than I am.
Or didn't you notice. You see, I had a boy once. And I loved him and he came every day and, well, I would do anything for him---as any tree mother might. And he loved me back. Why not? I let him climb and swing and collect my leaves and eat my apples and no that's not a metaphor for something icky.
But when it came time for him to discover human girls, I was soon forgotten. Sure, he and that tramp would lounge in my shade and---I can barely stand to remember it---k-i-s-s. I sure hope she didn't think I'd share my apples with her. She'd have had another think coming. So the boy and the tramp went off and did what young folks do and I settled back in to the business of being a tree. I'd had enough of human mothering. Right? I mean, give a boy a crown of leaves and he'll take a branch.
Yet, the boy came sauntering back into my forest to see me. I was all, "Climb, swing, have an apple. Have you been eating? You look skinny. Have another apple. Why don't you write?" And the boy was all, "S'up tree, I need some cash to take my lady to the movies and k-i-s-s in the d-a-r-k. Yo." So, because I'm a softwood at heart, I gave him all of my apples to sell so he could take the tramp out to TGI Fridays and then to see I Know What You Did with the Zombie Vampire Werewolves Last Summer. You think he'd send a thank you, but no.
Well, as long as the boy was happy, who was I to complain? Except, he wasn't happy. Well, join the club, fauna, do I look happy? Did he even ask? No, but he did ask if he could take my branches to build a house for him and some new bimbo. "I want a house," he said. "I want a wife and children," he said. I said, "Go ahead, cut me, see if I care. No, no, never mind my silent screams." And he did, and still, I tried to see past my ill fortune and love him anyway, because someday, I hoped, he'd appreciate my sacrifice.
Fast forward a few decades (not a Christmas card, or a photo of his family, or a phone call on my birthday, as if his fingers were broken) and he's back again---the sad sack. "What, no wife in tow? Where are your kids, or did you figure out that they will use you up and leave you to wood rot?" I asked him. "I'm old and whiny and tired and woe is me," the boy says. So, sure, he wants to cut down my trunk. The very last thing I've got left so he can sail off to find himself or find a new tramp or more money---but not to find compassion or simplest manners. Like, could he have thought, "Do I really want to destroy this tree for my midlife crisis boat?" Hasn't this guy heard of environmentalism? I bet he even drives a Hummer. Eats only off of paper plates, I'd wager.
And still, I'm a giver. I give. And when he was really not so boyish anymore, he came back to me. I was very ready to hear him say, "It's all you! You've been the reason I've been able to eat, make money, live in adequate shelter, and canoe my way through the pain of my wasted life. I've come back to grovel in the dirt at your stumpy form. I've come back to heap apologies and praises on you. You're the best mom a boy could have."
He didn't. He said he was old, toothless, and suffering from sciatica and mild dementia. He was incontinent and arthritic and boy could he use a quiet place to rest. Before I could protest, he parked his bony rear on my stumpy, ruined self. And how I hated him.
Or, at least, I wanted to. But you, you Mr. Silverstein, have doomed me to be forever "happy" to have an ungrateful brat of a boy come and sit on me for all literary eternity. You have lead generations of kids to believe that mothers are to be consumed and discarded. That we---tree or human---are to be wrung out, used up, neglected, ignored, and abused. So, if you ever loved your mother, fix it. If you ever felt a pang of guilt for condemning me to being the metaphor for perfect motherhood through complete subjugation to one's offspring, then you'll do me this favor: Splinters.
Like riding on the Character Assassination Carousel? Then hold on to that ticket, our next installment will be courtesy of the witty, talented, damn good Oswald cake baker, Kristine at Wait in the Van. Stay tuned to Ninja Mom for news of the February installment from Kristine.