While out running errands, I pick up some mittens at Target for the kids to take into school. Each December the school secretaries organize a mitten and hat drive. The woolens hang from branches of two fake evergreens under the main staircase by the cafeteria.
“I brought some mittens for you to take to school to hang on the tree,” I tell the boys.
“I’m not bringing them,” A. says.
“I don’t believe in mittens.” He’s taking a stand against mittens?!
“Mom, it’s called the Giving Tree,” corrects F. “Like the book?” The Shel Silverstein story of a love between a tree and a little boy is one of our favorites.
In the book, the boy visits the tree to eat her apples, swing from her branches, or slide down her trunk. The tree is happy to give. As the boy grows older he begins to want more from the tree. The tree gives the boy all the things that once gave the child joy: first his apples, then his branches, then his trunk, until the tree is nothing but a lowly stump. The story ends with the little boy, now an old man, sitting on the stump of the tree. The tree is once again happy.
It’s a story that resonates with parents as well as kids; a heady concept that shows one’s capacity to love and give with no expectations.
A. opens a package of two mittens and takes his favorite. “I guess I’ll take these, but I’m keeping this pair.”
Maybe I should have started with something simpler. Taking is the opposite of giving.