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December 30, 2014

Sukey Forbes: On Giving THE GIVING TREE

Posted by Lincoln

In her first Holiday Author Blog for, Sukey Forbes (author of THE ANGEL IN MY POCKET: A Story of Love, Loss, and Life After Death) meditates on the power of a single book --- THE GIVING TREE. How does this children's book continue to surprise, teach and inspire over the course of a lifetime? Can we really learn something as complex as selflessness from a few dozen hallowed pages and pictures? Sukey's experience says yes. 

My grandfather was a thoughtful man, and every act of his was deliberate and filled with kindness and a message. He had an abiding connection to the land and pride in his multi-generational family --- both past and present. As young children, we would have the privilege of joining him for a right of passage in his orchard as he planted a tree for each of us in our honor. This coveted time alone with our grandfather was something we all cherished. I recall feeling powerful love from this man who spoke infrequently of emotions.

When I was 12 years old, my grandfather gave me a book titled THE GIVING TREE by Shel Silverstein. I was an avid reader beyond my age at that point, and to receive a children's book from my grandfather struck me as a bit odd and out of touch for him.  

I read that book and I wept. The story tells of the relationship between a young boy and an apple tree. Over the course of their lives, the young apple tree gives every bit of herself to help the boy as he grows and his needs change until --- now both advanced in years --- she is reduced to a stump. She offered and gave willingly to the boy as he aged with her. The message of true selfless love was so powerful that it has stayed with me to this day. I was angry with the young boy, who played with the tree as a youth and then took everything the tree offered throughout his life without showing appropriate gratitude.

In my early reading of that book, I identified with the boy and recognized that some people might take more than they give. I did not want to be that person, and yet, I worried I was. (Could this have been the motivation behind my grandfather’s gift? Perhaps. If it was an early gentle correction, it may have worked.) As a selfish pre-adolescent, I marveled at the ability of anyone to give all they had and be able to end his or her life in simple happiness. I have gifted that book to many people over the last numbers of years --- and most of the recipients have been adults.

As a mother, I came to identify with the apple tree. I understand now the deep sense of gratitude and grace that settles into our souls just by giving love to our children. An apple tree now myself, I would give my last limb and carry my worn-out children on my back to my last breath if it would make a difference in their world. I believe that is the essence of unconditional love of a mother.

"...And the tree was happy.”